David Moyes' 10-year quest to win the FA Cup and land silverware for Everton could finally end this season, but only if they pass tough tests, writes Richard Jolly.
FA Cup: David Moyes perseveres for the silver lining at Everton
It began on the often-sodden banks of the River Severn a decade ago. It equated to a false start to what has been a defining quest of David Moyes's long reign at Goodison Park: to win the FA Cup.
In 2003, Everton were sunk at the ground which, it seemed, was flooded most often, Shrewsbury's Gay Meadow.
The sole Evertonian celebrating the 2-1 third-round shock was their former captain, the Shrewsbury manager Kevin Ratcliffe. To further Moyes's profound embarrassment, his conquerors were relegated from the Football League that season.
Advance to the current day and Everton have greater immunity to shocks, but Moyes's ambitions remain unrealised.
"I'd love to win the FA Cup because we have been at it for a long time," he said. "Over recent years, we have started to get a bit closer to the final numbers."
Indeed, defeat Wigan Athletic on Saturday at Goodison Park and they will reach a third semi-final in four years.
The road to Wembley, not required by Evertonians between 1995, when they last won the FA Cup, and 2009, will be travelled again.
On their second visit of recent times, they were less than an hour away from the silverware that has eluded Moyes.
They led Chelsea through the quickest ever FA Cup final goal, Louis Saha's 25-second strike. Back, however, came the serial winners.
"It was a hurdle too much," said Moyes at the time of the defeat. He is still to clear that final barrier.
"We were so close in 2009, but it was a difficult against a big team," said Marouane Fellaini, the midfielder. "This season it's different because maybe we have a better team."
The elite are reasons why Moyes's men, since finishing fourth in 2004, have never mustered a Uefa Champions League campaign.
Instead, the remarkable consistency of Everton's efforts brings a sense of permanence: that they invariably will be in the top eight, will compete for a Cup but will be defeated by a more illustrious opponent – and that Moyes will remain at the helm.
Now, two of those assumptions could be challenged. Beat Wigan and maybe this could be their year. Whether or not they do, it might be Moyes's last.
His contract expires in the summer, talks about a replacement have been postponed and the Scot is eager to avoid the subject.
A landmark achievement could have its pros and cons. Besides ensuring European football, lifting the FA Cup could give Moyes more reason to commit to Everton. Equally, it could enable him to walk away on a high while, at the same time, making himself more employable.
A frequent criticism of the much-admired manager is the lack of silverware to highlight the progress he has made; his CV is barer than those of other contenders for the elite jobs.
Strangely, given the contrasting values at Goodison Park and Stamford Bridge, he ranks among the favourites for Chelsea, even if that seems unlikely to happen.
More intriguingly, he recently spoke enthusiastically about the Bundesliga.
The reality, though, is that it will be a wrench to go anywhere else to ply his trade.
Upon his appointment in 2002, Moyes christened Everton "the people's club".
More than most managers, his longevity makes him one of the people. And the blue half of Merseyside have gone 18 years without a major honour.
"This club is the fans' life and they'd give anything to see us win a trophy, just like we would," said Seamus Coleman, the right-back.
Last year, defeat at Wembley in the semi-finals of the Cup was rendered all the more painful by the identity of their conquerors: Liverpool.
Once again, Everton had led on the hallowed turf. For a second time, it was not enough. Now the major obstacles to glory lie in Manchester, not on Merseyside.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE