Roy Hodgson's side put on a thoroughly professional performance during an action packed contest at St. James' Park on Saturday. As expected, Alan Shearer's side came out firing on all cylinders following Monday's morale-boosting win over Middlesbrough.
From the first whistle the game was played at a tremendous pace and the atmosphere inside St. James' Park was electric. With a place in Europe in sight Hodgson's players were certainly fired up for Saturday's contest, exemplified by a flurry of crunching tackles by Danny Murphy during the opening exchanges.
Fulham looked to test Steve Harper from distance early on with Dempsey and Kamara both trying their luck, but both efforts flew wide of goal. Newcastle's first effort on goal came after ten minutes of play. Danny Guthrie collected the ball 25 yards from goal and curled a right-footed shot towards the far post. The shot lacked disguise and allowed the ever-impressive Mark Schwarzer to collect with ease.
After 15 minutes of play Obafemi Martins smashed a thunderous effort against Fulham's post from the right hand side of the area. Martins, clean through on goal, looked odds on to score but the Nigerian international failed to find the target, much to the despair of the home crowd.
Zoltan Gera fired off Fulham's first shot on target after seventeen minutes. The Hungarian's right-footed effort across goal from the edge of the area forced Harper to dive low to his right to save but Gera's shot lacked the venom to pose any real danger.
As the half hour mark approached Fulham's well-organised display had significantly reduced the noise inside St. James' Park. The early roars had been replaced by palpable tension. Fulham Captain Murphy was certainly in combatative mood on Saturday and received the first booking of the game following a late sliding tackle on Gutierrez.
Newcastle's most promising play came down the flanks but the home side only created two notable opportunities from out wide during the first half. Fortunately for Hodgson's side both Taylor and Viduka failed to deliver a clinical finish.
Erik Nevland shaved the outside of Harper's far post on 38 minutes following a fine piece of interplay in the final third by Fulham. Five minutes before half time Diomansy Kamara scored his third goal in a week to give Fulham the lead following a superb counter attack by Roy Hodgson's side.
The move started on the edge of Fulham's area with Dempsey showing great determination to retain possession before finding Murphy in midfield. Murphy threaded the ball through to Nevland down the right flank and the Norwegian skipped behind Newcastle's defence for a one-on-one with Harper. Selflessly, Nevland cut the ball square to Kamara, who smashed his shot into the roof of Newcastle's empty net from close range.
It was a superb end to a fine first half performance by Hodgson's men and it was Fulham's travelling army of supporters who could be heard inside St. James' Park as Kamara's strike deflated the home crowd right before the interval.
Newcastle roared back at the start of the second half and Fulham were forced to soak up wave after wave of pressure.
Inside a minute of the restart Martins fired over from close range before Dickson Etuhu cleared off the line. From the resulting corner Viduka headed past Schwarzer to send the home crowd into raptures. The celebrations were short lived as Howard Webb blew for a foul. Nolan was adjudged to have impeded Schwarzer as he came to collect.
After 60 minutes Newcastle were dealt a further blow when Bassong was shown a straight red card by Howard Webb. A long ball upfield was chased by Kamara. The striker's pace was too much for Bassong who wrestled Kamara to the ground. As Newcastle's last defender Webb was left with no option but to give Bassong his marching orders.
Newcastle manager Alan Shearer reshuffled his pack immediately and replaced Guthrie with Ryan Taylor. Moments later Clint Dempsey had a valid penalty appeal turned down after the American was brought to ground on the edge of Newcastle's area.
Erik Nevland almost doubled Fulham's lead 20 minutes from time as Newcastle's pressure subsided. Fulham began to control possession with a combination of good movement and incisive passing. After some patient build up play Nevland fired in a ferocious right-footed drive which almost slipped through Harper's palms. Much to Newcastle's relief the ball looped over the cross bar.
Five minutes later Roy Hodgson made his first substitution of the game, replacing Nevland with Andy Johnson in attack. Two minutes later Brede Hangeland was forced to clear off his line after Martins wriggled past Hughes and fired goalwards. It was another highly impressive display by the Norwegian international defender on Saturday.
The tension grew inside St. James' Park as the game entered its final stages. In added time Mark Schwarzer produced an incredible save to deny a close range header. With Newcastle going for broke Fulham created several opportunities on the counter attack and should have extended their lead before Howard Webb blew for full time.