With seven wins from nine away league games, the Londoners had headed west full of confidence. They left demoralised and dishevelled.
There were few hints of what was to follow early in the game. Bruce Grobbelaar was the first goalkeeper to be called into serious action. Rob Scott swung in a free-kick from the left and Mike Conroy, the country's leading scorer, met it with a glancing header, but the Plymouth goalkeeper clawed it out spectacularly. Tony James cleared Danny Cullip's follow-up shot off the line. Two minutes later, in typical contrast, Grobbelaar came out for a long throw but missed the ball completely. He was not called into action again, though, until the last minute of the first half as Argyle took control.
Plymouth's wing-backs, Chris Billy and Paul Williams, were involved in most of their side's better moments. Three times Billy delivered crosses from the right flank without reward. The breakthrough arrived from that wing, though, seven minutes before half-time. A Chris Leadbitter cross was missed by goalkeeper Tony Lange and Ronnie Mauge found the net with a header.
Grobbelaar pushed a Scott shot round the post just before the interval, after which Fulham won several corners to no avail. They fell further behind in the 55th minute: Mauge was fouled by Glenn Cockerill and Mike Evans thumped in the penalty.
Argyle claimed another spot-kick on the hour when Williams fell as he was tackled by Cullip. The referee, Rob Harris, ruled against them, but booked both players for grappling with each other as tempers became frayed.
Fulham passed the ball around quite neatly but they did not look like scoring, and the game appeared to be drawing to a quiet close. The introduction of the Plymouth striker Adrian Littlejohn as a 77th-minute substitute changed everything.
With his first touch, Littlejohn controlled a James knock-down from a Barlow free-kick and set up Evans to lash in the third goal. The fourth, and best, goal arrived within two minutes when Littlejohn raced through an overworked defence to fire into the top corner from 20 yards.
Another substitute, the Canadian international Carlo Corazzin, completed the scoring two minutes from the end with a fine low shot from the edge of the area, after being set up by Littlejohn down the left.
l Bruce Grobbelaar was struck on the head by an object thrown from the crowd during the second half. One fan was arrested.Reuse content