Tottenham moved within three points of Premier League leader Manchester City on Wednesday after Aaron Lennon and Benoit Assou-Ekotto clinched a 2-0 victory over injury-hit Everton.
The north London club now only trails second-place Manchester United on goal difference after playing a match originally scheduled for the season opener but postponed due to rioting near White Hart Lane earlier that week.
That postponement may have worked in Spurs’ favor, as they went on to lose their opening two matches in August before finding the form that has turned them into a credible title contender.
Lennon put Spurs in front in the 35th minute with a scuffed shot after cutting through the Everton defense and Assou-Ekotto netted in the 63rd with a fierce long-range strike.
While United States goalkeeper Tim Howard conceded twice, compatriot Brad Friedel was never troubled in the Tottenham net.
Entering the second half of the season, Tottenham has a realistic chance of winning the league for the first time since 1961 as it sits third as the top team in London — eight points above Chelsea and a further point ahead of Arsenal.
Had the game been played in August, Tottenham would not have had striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who joined on loan later in August, while Everton was able to start January loan recruit Landon Donovan from the Los Angeles Galaxy.
While Scott Parker failed to overcome a knee injury, with Jake Livermore taking his midfield role, Lennon made his first league start in three weeks after recovering from hamstring problems.
Lennon’s return provided more balance to the team with Gareth Bale on the left flank, but it took 24 minutes for the first goal-scoring chance to arrive following a speedy counterattack from the hosts.
Bale slipped the ball through to Adebayor but the Togo striker lifted it too far wide of the onrushing Howard and could not get sight of goal.
As the Everton goal mouth came under more pressure from the hosts, Adebayor clipped the ball wide from close range and Rafael van der Vaart curled a shot onto the roof of the net before it was finally breached.
A deep crossfield ball from Assou-Ekotto was missed by Leighton Baines and was punished by Lennon, who rounded the defender and Sylvain Distin while cutting into the penalty area.
The England winger then sent a low shot into the bottom corner of the net to ensure Tottenham scored for the 19th consecutive league fixture.
Bale forced an early save from Howard at the start of the second half after bursting forward on an electric counterattack.
With Phil Jagielka already sidelined, Everton’s defensive woes deepened when center back Distin limped off in the 58th and was replaced by the inexperienced Shane Duffy.
And Everton went further behind when Assou-Ekotto blasted a swerving shot into the net from 30 meters (yards) via a slight deflection off Tim Cahill.
The left back was only available to score for the first time since August 2009 — against Everton’s neighbor Liverpool — due to Cameroon failing to qualify for the African Cup of Nations this month.