Everton manager David Moyes was relieved to emerge with three points after having to fend off a second-half barrage from Portsmouth.
The Toffees took the lead at Fratton Park when Louis Saha pounced on a high ball from John Heitinga and lofted the ball beyond James and into the net.
But after the break Portsmouth squandered several chances to draw level as they went in search of their first points of the season.
Despite facing such an out-of-form side, Moyes says he expected a tough encounter before the game started
"Portsmouth put us under a lot of pressure at the end but (it was) to be expected," he told Sky Sports after the match.
"I think when you've lost five or six games in a row then obviously the team are going to show some pride and they did that."
He added: "Coming to win here's a hard game and the players dug in deep today and three games I think we've had in seven or eight days so it was three good results for us."
The Scottish manager was also full of praise for his striker Saha, who added to his brace against Blackburn last Sunday with another goal against Pompey.
"Well he's a really good player, everybody knows that and if we can keep him fit and on the pitch then I think he'll get you the goals," Moyes said.