Manchester City were denied the three points they required to secure top spot on Christmas Day as 10-man Everton made it four wins on the trot at Eastlands with a 2-1 victory.
First-half efforts from Tim Cahill and Leighton Baines were enough for the Toffeemen, who defended valiantly once they had gained the initiative.
Not even the needless dismissal of Victor Anichebe could stop them as Mario Balotelli hit a post after Yaya Toure's deflected effort had pulled one back. Manchester City's evening was further soured when Kolo Toure saw red in stoppage time.
The visitors went in front when Seamus Coleman retrieved the ball and crossed to the near post, where Cahill was completely on his own to nod home his ninth goal of the season from inside the six-yard box.
Everton's second was a goal of stunning simplicity as Baines fed Anichebe, who rolled the ball into the box for Cahill. His lay-off was perfect for Baines, who beat Joe Hart with a brilliant curling right-footed shot from just inside the area.
A desperate City launched a ferocious assault at the Everton goal. Six well-struck shots brought half a dozen equally brave blocks, none of them by Tim Howard, who was protected by a ring of blue.
In the second half, Aleksandar Kolarov went close for Manchester City before the game took a turn for the worse for Everton when Anichebe instinctively stuck out a leg to stop Zabaleta in his tracks near half way and earned a second yellow card.
City had a penalty appeal turned down when David Silva's shot struck Phil Neville. But just as City looked to be running out of ideas, they received a large slice of good fortune as Yaya Toure's wayward shot struck Phil Jagielka and bounced in to revive their hopes once more.
Moments later, Balotelli raced onto Toure's brilliant pass over the Everton defence. The Italian beat Howard with a delicate chip but the ball bounced off the post and although Carlos Tevez got to the rebound, the visitors' keeper recovered his ground and made an impressive save.
And the postscript to City's evening came when Kolo Toure was booked twice in stoppage time to earn himself the game's second red card.