Hugo Rodallega's late goal gave Fulham's Barclays Premier League survival chances a huge boost as they won 2-1 at Aston Villa on Saturday.
The Colombian, brought on at half-time by Felix Magath, glanced in Lewis Hotlby's right-wing cross four minutes from time to earn Fulham a priceless three points in their battle to avoid relegation.
They had earlier taken the lead through Kieran Richardson's wonderful strike just after the hour, the former Sunderland man running on to substitute Askhan Dejagah's pass and lashing a first-time strike into the top right-hand corner from 20 yards.
Nine minutes later, Villa's on-loan Wigan Athletic striker Grant Holt, selected in place of the injured Christian Benteke, looked to have earned his side a point when he headed in a 70th-minute equaliser from Marc Albrighton's corner.
But Magath had targeted four wins from Fulham's final six matches to beat the drop, and Rodallega's header will come as a massive lift as the visitors won in the Barclays Premier League at Villa Park for the first time since 1970.
It looked as though they would have to settle for a point when Matthew Lowton somehow stretched to clear Holtby's close-range effort off the line at 1-1, with the goal decision system ruling that only a tiny portion of the ball had not crossed the line.
But Rodallega's late intervention, securing a first Barclays Premier League away win since Boxing Day, re-ignites Fulham’s chances of avoiding the drop as they now sit 18th.
After a quiet opening, the visitors wasted a presentable opportunity to take the lead in the 20th minute. Nathan Baker squandered possession deep inside the Villa half, but Cauley Woodrow waited too long to slip the ball to Pajtim Kasami, who had to stretch to stab an effort forward and the attack came to nothing.
Andreas Weimann glanced a header narrowly over the angle of post and crossbar seven minutes later as the hosts responded strongly, with David Stockdale then parrying away Leandro Bacuna's driven effort after the Dutchman jinked into the area on the half-hour mark.
Suddenly the match became an open affair, Woodrow taking advantage of Joe Bennett's under-hit pass to streak clear 10 minutes before the break, but his low strike from an angle was palmed away from danger by Brad Guzan.
The visitors finished the half the stronger, Holtby and Steve Sidwell both bringing saves out of Guzan from distance in the closing moments.
Bacuna went close to breaking the deadlock three minutes after the interval, seeing his fierce strike touched onto the near post by Stockdale and behind for a corner, but then Richardson then gave the west Londoners the lead, crashing the ball home from just outside the area after being teed up by Dejagah.
The lead lasted just nine minutes, however, Holt left all alone to convert Albrighton's right-wing corner with a firm header.
The hosts were buoyant, Albrighton testing Stockdale with a stinging drive five minutes before Lowton's incredible goalline clearance denied Holtby, who had rounded Guzan, immediately afterwards.
As the game became stretched, Aleksandar Tonev saw his curling effort brilliantly tipped away by Stockdale at full stretch before Weimann glanced a header narrowly over the bar.
There was to be one final moment of drama, though, as Rodallega headed in to spark jubilation among the 3,000-strong visiting support.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "It was a really open game, with chances at both ends, but it was disappointing to lose.
"There are a lot of games left and you look to see who's playing who. A lot of teams are in the same situation as ourselves.
"I thought Grant Holt was excellent. He led the line great for us and produced a terrific header for the goal."
Fulham manager Felix Magath: "It was a great victory for us. I feel very proud of my team. We fought back and we won a big game.
"Richardson's goal was goal of the month. He's a very important player for us, but after their equaliser we came back to fight and that was very important for us.
"With this victory, we are very confident to go on for the rest of the season."
|12 Apr 2014||v Crystal Palace (A)|
|19 Apr 2014||v Southampton (H)|
|26 Apr 2014||v Swansea (A)|
|03 May 2014||v Hull (H)|
|07 May 2014||v Man City (A)|
|11 May 2014||v Spurs (A)|