Wigan Athletic have not enjoyed their trips to the capital this season, and despite a brave performance, goals from Stefano Okaka and Brede Hangeland handed victory to Fulham.
The visitors had conceded 13 goals in two games in London prior to this visit to Craven Cottage, and will no doubt be looking to put that jinx behind them with two more in their last five fixtures.
Despite their predicament in the league, Wigan certainly impressed and came straight out of the blocks, with Fulham needing the cool assurance of Brede Hangeland to slow proceedings and see the ball to safety.
Despite a positive start from Wigan, it was the Whites that saw the best of the early chances, with Simon Davies breaking down the right and finding Damien Duff in space behind Wigan left-back Maynor Figueroa. The Republic of Ireland international teased a cross into Zoltan Gera, but the Hungarian could only find the arms of Chris Kirkland with a diving header.
England hopeful, Kirkland, did even better moments later, denying David Elm with a super block, the Swedish striker put through and firing at goal from the left of the area.
With Fulham pushing forward, referee Mark Clattenburg waved away appeals for a penalty with little more than 15 minutes gone, with Gera going down under the challenge of Titus Bramble.
At the other end, Hugo Rodallega was proving a useful outlet for the Latics, with his skill down the left fashioning a brief moment of hope for Marcelo Moreno. Mark Schwarzer also did well to claim one testing, low delivery from the Colombian attacker.
Moreno also tried his luck from distance, while Paul Scharner headed high and wide from a James McCarthy corner.
A nervy spell ensued for Schwarzer on the half hour mark, with Hangeland heading off from the line with the Australian caught out of position. Schwarzer did make amends seconds later, tipping Figueroa’s floated effort over the crossbar.
However, Schwarzer was beaten on 34 minutes, with Jason Scotland’s shot on the turn following Moreno’s clever knockdown finding its way into the bottom left corner.
Elm responded with an ambitious curled strike from the right of the Wigan box, dispossessing Titus Bramble and attempting to catch Kirkland off guard. While Duff’s deflected cross almost found its way into the Wigan net, with Kirkland palming the ball to relative safety.
Fulham certainly finished the half on top though, with Davies’ deep delivery almost finding the head of Clint Dempsey.
With plenty to do, Fulham emerged with endeavour, which was underlined by Gera’s graft on the by-line. The number 11 looked up, and with the outside of the right boot teed up substitute Stefano Okaka to turn the ball home with a confident first-time finish with barely a minute of the second-half gone.
Almost instantly, Rodallega flashed a chance wide of the Whites’ goal, collecting a fantastic pass from Bramble and running beyond Davies. The Colombian international then hit a crisp strike at Schwarzer following a clever run inside.
The goal seemed to breathe life into the visitors, who had won only twice in their last 12 league games, with the game there for the taking.
But a stinging strike from Duff, following some clever play from Davies and Gera gave Fulham the impetus once more, with Dempsey then picking the pockets of McCarthy and forcing a corner.
From Duff’s subsequent delivery, it was Hangeland that rose highest, heading in with conviction on 58 minutes, with the Norwegian’s effort leaving Kirkland well-beaten.
Fulham kept the ball nicely and a period of positivity followed with Gera, Dempsey and Duff pulling Wigan out of shape.
Wigan substitute Victor Moses did go close to an equaliser however, heading over from McCarthy’s corner, while Paul Konchesky did well to thwart Moreno.
An excellently despatched free-kick from Danny Murphy forced Kirkland into action on 74 minutes, with Dickson Etuhu and Okaka bearing down on the Latics’ stopper.
With play swinging back-and-forth, Dempsey did well to block efforts from both McCarthy and Moreno on the edge of the Fulham box, while a crunching tackle from Etuhu reminded Roberto Martinez’s side of the Whites’ commitment.
With the final 10 minutes approaching, Wigan certainly had the momentum with Schwarzer claiming a deep delivery from Mario Melchiot under pressure from Rodallega.
Hangeland twice did well to snuff out the threat of an on-running Scott Sinclair, while Aaron Hughes showed his experience to deny Wigan another with a minute left on the clock.
Fulham were denied further claims for a penalty in injury-time when Bramble dived in on Dempsey, but it mattered little as the Whites held on to secure a valuable win.
With European exploits aside, March had been a month to forget for Fulham with three straight league defeats, but this afternoon’s win did much for our domestic ambitions with three points moving the Club past the 40-point marker ahead of Thursday’s highly anticipated trip to Wolfsburg.