Harry Kane scored twice and produced another masterclass in centre-forward play as second-placed Tottenham defeated Everton to close the gap on leaders Chelsea to seven points.
The 23-year-old is now the leading scorer in the Premier League with 19 goals, and has found the net 14 times in 12 league and cup games in 2017.
He gave Tottenham the lead in the 20th minute when he unleashed a venomous strike from 20 yards that beat Joel Robles at his near post.
The England forward’s second came after the break. Belgian Mousa Dembele caught French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin dawdling on the ball, allowing Dele Alli to poke a pass through to his team-mate. The Spurs striker then applied a sidefoot finish past the Spanish keeper.
Kane’s opposite number Romelu Lukaku had struggled for service up until the 81st minute when he scored with the Toffees’ second effort on target.
Kevin Mirallas played a pass to the Belgian, who was given a clear sight on goal after Jan Vertonghen slipped. Lukaku kept his composure to slot in.
A frantic finish saw both tiring defences exposed. First, Alli ghosted past his markers to poke in Harry Winks’ free-kick and make it 3-1. And with seconds remaining, Everton substitute Enner Valencia beat the offside trap to tap in Ross Barkley’s set-piece from the right.
Spurs survived the remaining moments to secure their 16th league win of the season. The Toffees remain in seventh.
Chelsea will re-establish their 10-point lead on Monday if they defeat West Ham at London Stadium.
Kane v Lukaku: England forward comes out on top
Both strikers went into the game with 17 league goals and four assists apiece this season. Yet on Sunday, one forward dominated.
The heatmap above shows Kane’s positions, on the left, and Lukaku’s on the right. Lukaku is clearly the focal point for Everton’s attack; his Tottenham counterpart moves around more freely.
However, the rigidity of Lukaku’s positioning was easy to read for his markers. And when he did manage to lay a pass to his attacking foils Barkley and Tom Davies, they were repeatedly hounded off the ball by the diligent and dogged tracking of midfielders Dembele and Victor Wanyama.
Kane’s positioning was less predictable. For his opener, he was deep on the left before moving forward and striking that sublime effort. And for his second, he was out on the left again but away from the action until Alli played him in.
Lukaku did manage to breach the Spurs backline in the final few moments, but he was aided by Vertonghen’s unfortunate slip.
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino said that Kane’s good form is down to hard work.
“I think he is fresh because he trains a lot. He makes a lot of double sessions and he is very professional,” said the Argentine.
“If you are asleep and you eat and you forget to train, maybe you are fat, like me! And you cannot run. I think it’s about being consistent and training.
“He is very focused now in training and in taking care of himself and you can see how he is.”
Did Koeman play too safe?
Tottenham’s defence had a very comfortable afternoon up until the final 10 minutes, but they might have faced a stiffer test had Everton manager Ronald Koeman opted for a more attacking set-up.
The Dutchman chose to start with 36-year-old defensive midfielder Gareth Barry rather than 19-year-old forward Ademola Lookman. It would have been seen as the perfect tactical switch had Barry blocked Kane’s 20-yard strike that resulted in the opener, rather than make a half-hearted attempt.
Veteran Barry, and Barkley, lost the battle in central midfield against the more energetic pairing of Dembele and Wanyama. Lookman’s addition might have given that duo a tougher time.
Man of the match – Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Kane deserves all the praise
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino on his side’s chances of catching Chelsea: “The most important thing is to show the belief on the pitch and today I think we showed that.
“More than talk and more than speak outside, it is better the team show their performance because I think (regarding) belief the answer is very easy.
“We need to be there, it’s not up to us of course, but it’s up to us to be ready if they fail.”
Everton manager Ronald Koeman: “Lukaku showed again today, he’s so strong and dangerous and if he gets a chance it’s a goal. It wasn’t a competition between the strikers today – but he and Kane both showed their quality of finishing.
“It was emotional until the last second. We started really well and made it tough for Tottenham to create space between the lines. But our mistakes were punished.
“Tottenham have had two or three years in a row with the same players. It’s all about time which is what we need to have. If we get the time to improve, that’s the next step for the club.”