Fabien Barthez may have a back catalogue of blunders to rival those of David Seaman but, not for the first time, the Manchester United goalkeeper still emerged as his team's saviour at Loftus Road.
For every high-profile error committed by the likes of Barthez and Seaman,there are moments to savour and United would certainly have lost without their France international.
Barthez denied Steed Malbranque from the penalty spot after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had equalised Steve Marlet's first-half effort for the home side.
And while Barthez could have been accused of gamesmanship by some in being booked for time-wasting, he was merely proving the thin line between hero and villain in a goalkeeping jersey.
United could even have gone on to claim victory only to fall foul of referee Mike Dean's refusal to award them a penalty of their own despite two strong appeals for handball against Alain Goma.
However, given the spirited way in which Fulham gave United a run for their money, a point was all that the visitors realistically deserved over the courseof the entire game.
United were without not only Ruud van Nistelrooy, Roy Keane, Rio Ferdinand andWes Brown, but also Nicky Butt, and they were relatively easily contained by Fulham in the first half.
While a free-kick by Malbranque was curled just over the crossbar, the gamewas high-octane but low-quality until Fulham's patience paid off as they seized the lead with 35 minutes gone.
United's defence were unable to cope with a cross by Rufus Brevett from theleft flank, with Facundo Sava taking their eyes off the ball before Marletpounced at the far post.
Mikael Silvestre had the chance to put the ball behind for a corner but onlysucceeded in slightly deflecting it and Marlet, brimming with confidence after adouble-strike for France, was still able to finish just inside the upright.
Only a superb reaction save by Edwin van der Sar prevented Paul Scholes equalising from virtual point-blank range, yet Barthez similarly needed to believe to the danger as Sava also threatened. Ryan Giggs, who was making his 500th appearance for United, was not alone inhaving little impact on the first half.
However, the winger was moved into a far more influential central striking
role by Sir Alex Ferguson after the restart, with Scholes moved first onto theleft flank and then into central midfield. While Giggs was denied by van der Sar, United continued to raise the tempo andthey were level on 61 minutes, courtesy of defensive indecision and a typical piece of opportunism by Solskjaer.
A long punt forward was more in hope than expectation, but centre-backsAbdeslam Ouaddou and Zat Knight, who had been superb up to that point, somehow got in each other's way. That still gave Solskjaer only a glimmer of a chance but the Norwegian striker let fly with an unstoppable volley into the far corner. Solskjaer's next effort was saved by van der Sar and, as the tempo increasedyet again, Malbranque twice came close at the other end and Sava was denied byBarthez's legs. With 71 minutes gone, the turning point arrived. Sean Davis sent Marlet haringtowards goal and having pushed the ball past Laurent Blanc, he collided with thedefender and tumbled to the ground.
Referee Dean pointed to the spot but there was a considerable delay before the penalty was actually taken. First Gary Neville and Brevett had a shoving match and then Barthez was booked for time-wasting as he stood by his post.
Perhaps Malbranque was unnerved as a result, perhaps Barthez merely displayed superb reactions. Either way, the Frenchman conjured up a vital save as he divedlow to his left.
United had their own penalty appeal for an apparent handball by Goma turneddown soon afterwards, enraging Ferguson on the touchline. A similarly strong appeal against the same defender went unheard in the frantic final seconds, but the scoreline finished even and United had Barthezmore than anyone to thank for that.