Fulham chairman Mohamed Al Fayed boasted before kick-off that his club are on track to become "the kings of west London". But they were unable to prove that and gain revenge for April's bitter FA Cup semi-final defeat at Villa Park.
In the first half of Claudio Ranieri's 100th game in charge of the Blues, Cudicini made a fantastic save from Junichi Inamoto, clawing the ball away from the bottom right corner. Barry Hayles actually had Fulham's two best chances of the night - but first fired over and then got the ball stuck under his feet. Chelsea centre-back Robert Huth, making his first league start, had the Blues' two clearest openings.
He made a hash of a header from Gianfranco Zola's free-kick - and forced van der Sar into a brilliant save late on, palming away his 18-yard drive.
The big Dutchman also made a great block to deny Chelsea substitute Jesper Gronkjaer. Chelsea started with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Zola up front. Eidur Gudjohnsen was left on the bench, while Marcel Desailly was believed to be a late injury victim and did not make the squad. The first moment of insight came from Zola in the 12th minute.
The diminutive Italian latched onto a loose ball as Alain Goma challenged Hasselbaink - and unleashed a rising 25-yard drive which flew over Fulham captain van der Sar'scrossbar.
Huth then found himself in acres of space to meet Zola's free-kick - but made a right mess of his header. Sean Davis' precise pass sprang the Blues offside trap just before the half-hour.
But with Hayles screaming for the ball in the middle, Steed Malbranque - scorer of the winner against Hajduk Split in the UEFA Cup on Thursday - harmlessly scuffed his cross straight to Chelsea's retreating defence. Fulham's pressure was mounting now, and if Hayles had been able to extract the ball from under his feet eight yards from goal, Ranieri's men would have been 1-0 down.
Chelsea hit back when Lampard's diagonal ball picked out Boudewijn Zenden - but the Dutchman shot across the face of goal.
It was far more like a derby game now, and Hayles really should have done better when he benefited from a lucky rebound off William Gallas' heels nine minutes before the interval but he could only blaze over the top. Cudicini had to make a magnificent save when Inamoto worked a yard of space inside the Chelsea area and fired his shot towards the bottom left corner.
Fulham centre-backs Goma and Zat Knight were caught square five minutes after the break. Enrique de Lucas' bouncing cross from the right beat both of them, allowing Hasselbaink to steal in and half-connect with a header which went wide.
Just after the hour, Tigana threw on Luis Boa Morte, back after a knee injury, for Inamoto - and the Portuguese international soon fed Marlet, who half-rounded Cudicini but could only poke the ball four yards wide.
And, as play swung to the other end, Lampard hooked a pass wide to substitute Gronkjaer. He thundered a shot goalwards and van der Sar parried. The giant Dutchman saved his team again with five minutes left from Huth's stinging drive which seemed destined for the bottom left corner.