Fulham enjoy lifeline against slumping Norwich
London: Fulham`s hopes of avoiding relegation from the Premier League were given a huge boost by a winner from Hugo Rodallega in a 1-0 win at home to Norwich, who must now fear they are instead destined for the drop.
Felix Magath`s side are still in the bottom three with four games remaining but Saturday`s win at Craven Cottage means they are now only two points behind the Canaries, who have an unenviable run-in with fixtures against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Cardiff City`s win at Southampton was bad news for both sides as it keeps them in with a chance of staying up but Fulham will feel for the first time in a long time that their destiny is in their own hands.
The starting line-ups said much about both sides` confidence levels going into the game.
Fulham, having won 2-1 at Aston Villa, made just one change by drafting in Rodallega, who had come off the bench to score the winner.
Norwich had lost 1-0 at home to West Bromwich Albion that weekend, a setback that prompted them to sack manager Chris Hughton and promote youth team coach Neil Adams, who immediately made six changes.
Both sides began boldly, with Norwich`s Nathan Redmond almost catching out David Stockdale, the Fulham goalkeeper, with an effort from a tight angle early on.
Fulham then had defender John Heitinga to thank for blocking a volley from Jonny Howson but the home side came close with an effort across goal from Rodallega that was just wide.
Rodallega`s inability to control a flick-on saw another promising chance evaporate but Norwich almost took the lead through Ricky van Wolfswinkel, the £8.5 million forward who hadn`t scored since the opening day of the season. The Dutchman met Martin Olsson`s cross on the volley only for Stockdale to pull off a superb reflex save.
Leroy Fer saw the excellent Stockdale keep out his header from the resulting corner and a free-kick that followed soon after saw Robert Snodgrass strike the crossbar, with the Fulham goalkeeper helpless on that occasion.
Norwich knew they should have been ahead and Rodallega made them pay in the 40th minute when he swept a free-kick high into their net.
The visitors again tested Stockdale after the break, with Fer side-footing a low effort, but Rodallega almost made it 2-0 with a header that was cleared off the line by Olsson in front of the far post.
Still Norwich attacked and still they could not find the net, even when Olsson set up Snodgrass at the far post, where Brede Hangeland did just enough to force the Scot to fire wide.
Fulham substitute Scott Parker poked a passable chance tamely wide as the game entered a frantic final 20 minutes, which saw Rodallega head away a header from Michael Turner that might well have gone in otherwise.
Another substitute, Ashkan Dejagah, missed a glorious opportunity to wrap up victory in stoppage time, blazing over with only John Ruddy to beat, but the final whistle soon followed, to the huge delight of Fulham fans.