Haaland scored his 21st Premier League goal of the season on 24 minutes, finishing well following a fine ball to him by Riyad Mahrez.
But the Toffees earned a share of the spoils when Gray scored a fine solo goal on 64 minutes.
The game ended with 11 minutes of stoppage time but City couldn’t quite find that all-important second to win the game.
Haaland has been the name on everyone’s lips since joining City from Dortmund this summer.
And he was the centre of attention in the first half here at the Etihad Stadium.
Within the first 20 seconds, there was an injury scare for the giant Norwegian as he landed awkwardly jumping for a ball with Ben Godfrey. After staying down for two minutes, there was a huge ovation as he made his way back to his feet.
He was in the thick of the action on 10 minutes as he tried to reach a whipped cross from Kevin De Bruyne from the left – but he couldn’t quite connect.
It was Haaland again who was released down the left channel on 11 minutes but, after rounding keeper Jordan Pickford, he found himself with a very tight angle before eventually blasting into the side-netting.
City were growing in confidence at this point as our slick passing game clicked firmly into gear.
Another delicious free-kick in from the left by De Bruyne on 19 minutes was eyed up by John Stones but the England centre-half was cleared out by Three Lions team-mate Pickford as they duelled for the ball in the air. Stones was momentarily winded but he was eventually deemed fit to continue.
Grealish jinked down the left before firing a lovely ball into the feet of Mahrez.
Mahrez found a cross into the box which Haaland beautifully despatched to notch up his 21st Premier League goal, his 27th in all competitions and his 14th at the Etihad Stadium.
21 - Despite this year’s World Cup break, Erling Haaland’s 21 goals are the most scored by a player before the turn of the year in a single Premier League season. Pontoon. pic.twitter.com/yhGygfpnE7— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 31, 2022
The lead was so nearly doubled on 27 minutes as Everton’s James Tarkowski almost headed into his own goal.
If that was close, Stones went even closer on 44 minutes as the first half neared its conclusion, the defender heading against the post after yet another inviting ball into the box from the right by De Bruyne.
City began the second half as they finished the first – pressing and probing in search of a second goal.
Grealish tried to slip Haaland in on 50 minutes but his delightful through-ball from the left was cut out just as he appeared to have set the fab forward up for a glorious chance.
There was a five-minute stop in play on 52 minutes as one of the officials struggled to solve a technical issue.
Gray scored an impressive solo goal on 64 minutes as he broke down the left before stopping and firing past Ederson from just inside the box.
The Toffees then enjoyed a spell of pressure as Amadou Onana saw a deflected shot on 68 minutes from just outside the box fly just wide of Ederson’s goal.
Grealish looked to make things happen on 74 minutes as he ran towards goal from the left channel but his effort on goal was charged down by substitute Seamus Coleman.
There was a collective gasp on 81 minutes as De Bruyne yet again floated a wonderful ball into the box, with Haaland ready to pounce, but the ball was cleared away.
What followed was a spell of pinball in the box as City tried to find that decisive second but luck wasn’t on our side as we kept banging on the door.
There was a collective gasp – and then cheers – as 11 minutes of stoppages were shown on the big screens with normal time running out.
City continued to search for another vital goal as Everton defended deeper and deeper as the minutes ticked by.
But they couldn’t quite do it as the final whistle blew.
TRIBUTE TO PELE
The football world was deeply saddened earlier this week with news of the passing of global icon, Pele.
Pele, born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, was a superstar of the beautiful game and wowed the world with his exploits for Brazil.
He is the only player to win three World Cups, lifting the trophy in 1958, 1962 and 1970 - and he was also named FIFA’s Player of the Century in 2000.
He scored 77 goals in 92 matches for his country, including 12 in 14 World Cup matches.
Pep Guardiola paid tribute to him in his pre-match press conference and today, those attending the game got their chance to say goodbye as his picture was shown on the Giant Screens at the Etihad Stadium ahead of kick-off.
There was a minute’s silence for him – and for all those in our beloved City Family who have lost their lives in 2022.
It was a poignant moment, immaculately observed.
SPECIAL DAY FOR FINLAY
Jack Grealish made Finlay Fisher feel on top of the world after he dedicated his England World Cup goal against Iran to him at Qatar 2022.
But, today, the shoe was on the other foot as Finlay put out the welcome mat for Jack as he arrived for the game against Everton.
Finlay was our special guest for the Toffees match and was interviewed pre-match before taking part in the arrival announcements as the team headed into the stadium.
Unused subs: Ortega Moreno, Walker, Phillips, Cancelo, Gomez, Palmer
EVERTON XI: Pickford, Patterson (Coleman 70’), Tarkowski, Coady, Godfrey (Doucoure 90’), Mykolenko, Onana, Gueye (Davies 78’), Iwobi, Gray, Calvert-Lewin (Maupay 70’)
Unused subs: Begovic, Holgate, Keane, McNeil, Vinagre
PEP GUARDIOLA REACTION
"They made a fantastic goal with the shot on target they had, the first one.
"We played a really good game. The approach from Liverpool and Leeds is completely different to how Everton play tonight but we played a really good game.
"The result was not expected but it’s football. It’s not the first time it happened.
"We did everything to win. We played really well, our positional play especially in the first half.
"Unfortunately we could not do it."
JOHN STONES REACTION
“I feel like we've lost two points. That's football. We controlled the game for the majority of the time and had a lot of chances but couldn't seem to get that goal.
"It's difficult to take after the game. We showed great character to keep fighting and pushing. It was a bit of a scrappy game.
"I'm very pleased with how we played. The result doesn't reflect that.”
MANUEL AKANJI REACTION
"It was good until we conceded and it went 1-1. We tried to score the second goal and the winning goal, we had opportunities to score, but it didn't want to go in. We tried until the last minute.
"It was one of those games. We gave the opponents one opportunity with their only shot on target and they scored it immediately.
"In the next game we have to do better, keep a clean sheet and then maybe 1-0 will be enough."
WHAT IT MEANS
City remain second in the Barclays Premier League, seven points behind table toppers Arsenal.
The 1-1 draw with the Toffees puts us on 36 points from 16 games.
The Gunners won the final game of the day 4-2 away at Brighton & Hove Albion and are on 43 points from 16 matches.
As we bring in the New Year very shortly, we now play six games in January.
The month begins with two games against Chelsea, first away in the Premier League on Thursday 5 January, kick-off 20:00 (UK) and then at home in the FA Cup on Sunday 8 January, kick-off 16:30 (UK).
What follows is a trip to Southampton in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup, with that match taking place on Wednesday 11 January, kick-off 20:00 (UK).
Then it's three Premier League games in nine days – the Manchester derby at Old Trafford (Saturday 14 January, kick-off 12:30), before home matches against Tottenham (Thursday 19 January, kick-off 20:00) and Wolves (Sunday 22 January, 14:00).
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