Tottenham Hotspur leapfrogged Everton into fifth place as they escaped with a narrow 1-0 victory over the Toffees at White Hart Lane.

The visitors were the better side but Emmanuel Adebayor gave Spurs a surprise second-half lead when he controlled a ball over the top and rifled past Tim Howard in the Everton goal.

Tottenham were forced into some desperate defending in the final minutes as Everton threw men forward but Tim Sherwood’s team held on for a vital three points in their chase for a top-four finish.

It was a win that looked unlikely in the opening 60 minutes which was dominated by the visitors.

Everton had started brightly and Hugo Lloris was forced into a superb sprawling save to keep out Leon Osman’s driven shot from the edge of the box after the midfielder had curled a previous effort inches wide of the post.

The Toffees were certainly the more creative in the opening stages, with Spurs only able to muster a long-range Christian Eriksen free-kick which flew narrowly over the bar.

Tottenham were guilty of frequently giving the ball away with some careless passing and looked vulnerable when they did as Everton were quick to move it forward and try to find Naismith and Mirallas looking to beat the offside trap.

At the back Everton looked disciplined and well organised and Tottenham were struggling to break through, but Adebayor almost latched on to Danny Rose’s whipped low cross that flashed across the face of goal with 25 minutes gone.

Kevin Mirallas produced a dazzling run from the half way line, turning and evading the desperate lunge of Dawson before bearing down on goal and the back tracking Vertonghen but the Belgian hit his shot over the bar.

Tottenham were under real pressure as half time approached and could not retain the ball for long enough to get out of their own half, frequently giving the ball away and getting beaten to second balls.

Adebayor nodded over early in the second half before Andros Townsend replaced Eriksen with 30 minutes to play.

Neither side looked like making the breakthrough but Spurs took the lead when Walker caught Everton napping with a quick free-kick over the top to Adebayor who chested the ball down, took one touch with his right and arrowed his shot inside Tim Howard’s near post with his left.

Naismith had brought down Dembele just inside the Everton half and Walker strolled up to the static ball as the players got to their feet and picked out Adebayor who made no mistake with his finish.

It was an unexpected turn for the home side, who had been second best throughout the game, but the previously subdued and frequently frustrated home crowd were jubilant in the aftermath, fully aware of the importance of the goal in their team’s top four chase.

Adebayor almost made it two when he rifled his shot from the edge of the box narrowly over before Jermain Defoe came on for Aaron Lennon five minutes from time.

Everton were screaming for a penalty when Capoue made contact with Coleman just inside the box but Spurs survived and were left to see out three minutes of added time with Everton piling men forward.

The full-time whistle was greet with elation by the home fans, allowing Jermain Defoe a celebratory lap of honour in his final game at White Hart Lane.

Spurs: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Rose, Bentaleb, Dembele, Lennon (Defoe, 84), Paulinho (Capoue, 67), Eriksen (Townsend, 58), Adebayor. Subs: Kaboul, Soldado, Naughton, Friedel.

Everton: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, McCarthy, Barry, Naismith (Deulofeu, 72), Osman (McGeady, 72), Pienaar (Barkley, 63), Mirallas. Subs: Robles, Hibbert, Stones, Traore.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)

Bookings: Capoue.