The punch in the air did not befit a manager winning a home game in September and neither did the procession of hugs he gave to his staff and players. But then Mick McCarthy had waited almost seven years and 22 games for his first home win in the Premier League. And blimey, Wolves had made him sweat for it.
Typically, McCarthy was forthright when explaining his reaction and did not wish to reminisce about Sunderland, where he went 19 top-flight home matches without a three-pointer. "I couldn't give a flying fig about my own stats – that's what they flash up on the screen when it goes tits up," he said. "What is pertinent is that this side has won its first home game in the Premier League." In the end it was hard-earned.
For more than a hour Wolves were in cruise control against a side seemingly in deckchair mode. "We left it late to start playing," said the Fulham manager, Roy Hodgson, before praising the home midfield for their "controlled aggression". "I've not seen us give the ball away that often. We did better afterwards but by then we'd made two blatant errors," he added.
Kevin Doyle capitalised on the first of these, scoring his first since becoming the record £6.5m signing in the summer. Greg Halford, Wolves' own Rory Delap, unfurled the long throw-in, the impressive Christophe Berra flicked it on and there, unmarked in the six-yard box, was the Irishman to head past Mark Schwarzer.
In the 50th minute Fulham cracked again. This time it was Clint Dempsey making the mistake, feebly heading the ball into the path of David Edwards in midfield. The Welshman passed to Andy Keogh on the right, continued his run and when it was time for Keogh to pull it back across, Edwards was in splendid and once again, baffling isolation. His finish was clinical.
It certainly seemed to have cut off Fulham's life-supply, particularly when Aaron Hughes almost headed into his own net. Schwarzer, however, was alert enough to tip it onto his bar and they still had chances.
Despite Hodgson fielding a virtual reserve XI in Thursday's Europa League match in Sofia (John Pantsil was the only outfield player from last week's win against Everton) it took his rested first-teamers more than an hour to manage their first shot on target, when Dickson Etuhu unleashed a fine strike which tested Wayne Hennessey.
Then Michael Mancienne lit Fulham's fire. Bobby Zamora had his back to goal when Andrew Johnson crossed but the central defender decided to tug him down anyway. Danny Murphy duly converted the penalty and suddenly the momentum switched as Wolves hit the panic button.
In the 78th minute Fulham should have drawn level when the home defence tried to employ an offside trap from a free-kick, leaving the opposing attackers with five yards of freedom. They somehow survived the resulting mêlée but inevitably the Molineux jitters intensified. Yet they hung on and McCarthy began the celebrations. For his team's sake only, of course.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Hennessey; Halford, Mancienne, Berra, Elokobi; Edwards (Maierhofer, 70), Henry, Castillo, Jarvis (Kightly, 86); Doyle (Ebanks-Blake, 78), Keogh. Substitutes not used: Hahnemann (gk), Hill, Milijas, Ebanks-Blake, Zubar.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky (Greening, 71); Duff, Etuhu (Kamara, 77), Murphy, Dempsey (Davies, 61); Johnson, Zamora. Substitutes not used: Zuberbühler (gk), Baird, Gera, Smalling.
Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire).
Booked: Wolves Halford; Fulham Pantsil.
Man of the match: Berra.
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