THE day began with talk of a broken back. Come 2.45pm, however, the only thing on the minds of disgruntled Goodison faithful was something completely spineless.
How else to describe an Everton performance that shattered hopes of ending a lengthy trophy drought and left David Moyes facing a potentially significant watershed in his tenure?
Well, here’s how. Abysmal. Toothless. Abject. Passionless. Humiliating. Shameful.
What should have been an affirmation of a return to form and the celebration of another Wembley appearance instead prompted further forensic dissection of the state of the Goodison nation.
And rather than the next step towards the dawning of a new era, the likelihood is the supporters witnessed the beginning of the end of one.
The last time Everton lost an FA Cup quarter-final, beaten 3-0 at Middlesbrough 11 years ago, it cost Walter Smith his job with Moyes ushered into the hotseat days later.
Of course, there’s no chance of the Scot walking in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s similar reverse at home to a Wigan Athletic side who ended the day in the Premier League relegation zone.
But the ramifications of this result will surely influence Moyes when he ponders his long-term future at Everton at the end of the season.
All is not well. After the game, there were dark mutterings from the Everton manager over frailties within the team and having been concerned they were becoming more apparent in recent weeks.
Moyes didn’t have to point out the most glaring issue. It’s no coincidence the feelgood factor that has rightly enveloped Goodison for much of the campaign started to seep away since the failure, for whatever reason, to strengthen during the January transfer window.
It prompted mixed messages from within the Everton camp as the squad began to creak under the demands of battling for FA Cup glory and Champions League qualification.
Matters all came to a head at the weekend, the flimsy depth of the squad exposed by the injuries to Tim Howard, nursing two broken bones in his back, and Phil Jagielka, two of Moyes’s most trusted lieutenants.
Despite fears to the contrary, neither of the pair’s replacements, Jan Mucha and John Heitinga, were overly culpable for one of the most damaging results of Moyes’s stewardship; in terms of shock and sheer disappointment, a mixture of Shrewsbury and Villarreal rolled into one.
Fingers should instead be pointed at the more established, senior figures of the team, with Everton outplayed and, inexcusably, outfought.
And outwitted, too. Moyes himself must also take his share of the blame, unable to find the answer to Wigan counterpart Roberto Martinez’s 5-4-1 formation that shut down the holes between defence and midfield Everton seek to exploit.