Just when it seemed that the wrangle over whether fourth place was good enough for the Champions' League had been resolved, Everton did their best to lose their hold on that spot.
Four points ahead of Liverpool and with a game in hand, the team from the blue half of Merseyside barely had a whiff of a chance at a ground where they have not won for 39 years. Never mind the Champions' League - this was more like Championship football.
But, as has become the weekly pattern, Liverpool could not capitalise and the gap is still three points. David Moyes' men seem destined for the highest level of European football despite two wins from their last seven matches.
The Scot said: "I keep things level because there's always a chance things don't go the way you want them to, but it's in our hands.
"We congratulated the players for getting into the Uefa Cup but that's all we did about it. At the moment we know there's something else we can achieve. This was not a good day today but we've had a lot of good days this season. We're going to try and go for the Champions' League but not put them under pressure."
Reaching Europe , in whatever guise, is a huge personal triumph for Moyes, who last season was fighting relegation. He said: "Personally, taking a team into Europe is something I wanted to do. This is a club that has won in Europe and if it wasn't for the years after Heysel maybe Everton would have been regular contenders. We've got to try and make sure this is not just a one-off."
Fulham achieved different objectives, thanks to Collins John's early strike and Brian McBride's excellent header, although Papa Bouba Diop's sending-off made them work harder.
They now cannot be relegated and their manager, Chris Coleman, said: "It feels very good. There's relief all round. When you're down there you're always looking over your shoulder. We didn't think we were out of it until it was mathematically sure. But this was a great performance."
Goals: John (15) 1-0; McBride (39) 2-0.
Fulham (4-4-2): Van der Sar; Volz, Knight, Goma, Rosenior; Radzinski (Jensen, 63), Diop, Clark, Boa Morte; John (Cole, 62), McBride. Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Bocanegra, Pembridge.
Everton (4-4-2): Martyn; Watson, Yobo, Weir, Pistone; Carsley, Arteta (McFadden, 64), Cahill (Osman, 13), Kilbane; Bent (Beattie, 64), Ferguson. Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Plessis.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
Booked: Fulham Diop; Everton Pistone, Arteta. Sent off: Diop.
Man of the match: Clark.
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