Dejagah strike gives Fulham hope
Ashkan Dejagah's 68th-minute goal lifted Fulham's hopes of avoiding relegation from the Premier League as they recorded a 1-0 victory over Newcastle United at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
Felix Magath's side remain at the foot of the table, four points off safety, but with other struggling teams also claiming positive results, anything other than a win would have represented a setback.
Dejagah's decisive strike came 14 minutes after Fulham were convinced they had gone ahead, only for goal-line technology to show that Johnny Heitinga's shot had failed to cross the line by the tiniest of margins.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew was forced to watch the game on television from a hotel room as he served the first of a seven-match ban imposed for headbutting Hull City midfielder David Meyler.
But he and his players can have had few complaints about the result after a lacklustre performance that dealt a blow to their chances of claiming a place in the Europa League.
Fulham manager Magath had claimed before this game that too many of his squad had yet to wake up to the fact that their top-flight status is in peril.
It seemed a game that Fulham could not afford to lose and Magath attempted to revive his side's fortunes by making five changes to the team that started last weekend's morale-sapping defeat at fellow strugglers Cardiff City.
Once again, though, the manager placed his faith in 19-year-old Cauley Woodrow to lead the attack.
And the teenager came close to handing Fulham the perfect start in the seventh minute when he narrowly failed to get on the end of Lewis Holtby's clipped free-kick, which had caught the Newcastle defence flat-footed.
That would not be the only time the visitors looked unconvincing in the first half and against a better team, they might have been punished.
- Heisting so close -
Against this Fulham side, however, they survived unscathed as the hosts demonstrated the uncertainty and lack of conviction that has dogged their campaign so far.
An inswinging corner from home winger Alex Kacaniklic was allowed to bounce in front of Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul inside the six-yard box, but there was nobody in a Fulham shirt on hand to stab the ball home.
And when Krul was called into action by Holtby's curling left-foot shot, the Dutchman reacted well to tip the shot away at full stretch.
Fulham's lack of firepower was frustrating for Magath, although the German could at least draw comfort from the fact that Newcastle were similarly unthreatening.
Looking like a team with little to play for, the visitors' play lacked urgency and Fulham's David Stockdale, recalled in goal in place of error-prone Holland international Maarten Stekelenburg, was largely untroubled.
Like Krul, when he was called upon, he responded with a fine save to repel Papiss Cisse's snapshot nine minutes before the break.
Aware they were in danger of letting an opportunity slip away, Fulham upped their efforts after half-time and they had the ball in the net within two minutes of the restart, only for the effort to be ruled out for offside.
Then, in the 54th minute, Heitinga's deflected shot struck the bar and bounced down onto the goal-line, only for the Hawkeye replay to show that a thin sliver of the ball had not crossed the line.
Magath's side might have been entitled to believe that this would not be their day, but the breakthrough finally came in the 68th minute when Dejagah cut in from the left and drilled a right-foot shot past Krul.