The sense of foreboding was thick. Fulham's manager Chris Coleman had been forced to declare he wasn't for quitting, several of his players, nevertheless, appeared to be doing just that and the stadium announcer played the same record three times in a row. Everyone, it seemed, was stuck in a rut.
Added to that, Crystal Palace were intent on dragging their opponents further into the relegation dogfight. Unfortunately, after a fully committed first half, which they edged, Iain Dowie's side proved to be pussy - rather than pole - cats.
Dowie argued afterwards that Fulham should have played with 10 men after Edwin van der Sar upended Andy Johnson. Palace got the penalty but the goalkeeper did not even get a card from referee Dermot Gallagher.
"It was a clear penalty," said Dowie, "the decision after that will raise a few eyebrows." Van der Sar, he felt, should have gone. "It was a goalscoring opportunity," said Dowie. "The rules are the rules. I don't agree with them but that is the rule."
Indeed, yet Dowie was also gracious enough to praise Fulham's full-blooded performance even if he also knows that his players, though below par, had chances. "We do not want to wallow in self-pity," he said. New recruits will arrive. Much work needs to be done.
As it does for Fulham. "We need to see more of that," Coleman beamed. "We had our fightback and played with a bit of edge." Andrew Cole will gain the headlines for his two goals but Luis Boa Morte, at his aggressive best after a hamstring injury, was the architect of a victory that ended the misery of three successive defeats.
The Portuguese winger tore into Palace's defence and ran them into submission. In the event, their only signs of life came in a late mêlée, after Danny Granville and Cole tangled and the striker, as is his wont, kicked out.
Cole had provided the lead inside four minutes. Tomasz Radzinski, too easily, cut inside Johnson and slipped the ball to Cole who had drifted into the space between Palace's central defenders. Fitz Hall was slow to react and Cole turned and clipped a low shot across Gabor Kiraly. The goalkeeper was unsighted, Hall was just asleep.
The defender redeemed himself half an hour later when his long punt forward picked out Johnson, who had stolen a yard. The striker's first touch was excellent, his second beat Van der Sar who caught him. The goalkeeper got a hand on the spot-kick but it was powerful enough to go in. Parity was deserved.
Even before Fulham had scored, Tom Soares had sliced wide, before, inexplicably, heading over from just two yards. Johnson had also headed over, under pressure, but Palace's threat quickly faded.
Just before the hour and Steed Malbranque fed Cole on the area's edge and beat Tony Popovic before toe-poking the ball right-footed beyond Kiraly. Boa Morte then tackled Hall and cut the ball back to Cole, who side-footed over.
Dowie responded by taking off his two most experienced midfielders but it made no difference. Boa Morte again supplied Cole, only for Kiraly to block, before Malbranque teed up the striker. This time he miskicked but the ball ran to Radzinski who, on the stretch, bundled it in.
At the end Coleman revealed that he had been given a vote of confidence from the boardroom - and money to spend on transfers. At least one will be done this week. But it helps that his team have got their groove back.Reuse content