Danny Murphy came off the bench to grab a deserved point as Fulham and Manchester City shared a six-goal thriller in a pulsating game at Craven Cottage.
Fulham twice took the lead but could not hold onto their advantage while City will wonder how they did not close out the game after doing all the hard work in coming from behind on two occasions and eventually going ahead.
City came to SW6 for this live televised game with a spring in their step under their new boss, the former England Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson. But it was Fulham who set the early pace in a game which saw boss Lawrie Sanchez pit his wits against Eriksson for the first time since he masterminded a Northern Ireland victory over England two years earlier.
Fulham went ahead after just 13 minutes when Hameur Bouazza won the ball from Michael Johnson near his own corner flag and after a slick, length of the field, passing move crossed towards Simon Davies at the near post. The Welsh international still had a great deal of work do and nipped in to head home as both Richard Dunne and Kasper Schmeichel converged on him.
Both Davies and David Healy then tested Schmeichel with decent efforts, but the scores were level on 35 minutes when Fulham lost possession cheaply in City's half, allowing the visitors to counter attack quickly. Martin Petrov embarked on a penetrating run at the Whites' defence with the Bulgarian winger darting towards Chris Baird, cutting inside the full back and firing under Antti Niemi with the outside of his left foot.
For the rest of the half City were the better team, playing bright, counter attacking football but Fulham remained resolute and took control again after the break - the introduction of Diomansy Kamara for Davies having an immediate positive effect.
Two minutes into the second half, Kamara won a free-kick 25 yards out and Bouazza exploited a weak City wall by smashing a left-foot effort home to put the home side in front again. However, the visitors were not finished and almost immediately went up to the other end and equalised. Elano's shot was only parried by Niemi and the advancing Emile Mpenza made no mistake with his follow up.
City then took the lead for the first time in the game on the hour - and again Niemi shouldered some of the responsibility when he was beaten by a near post shot from Petrov after a clever one-two with Elano.
Sanchez then introduced both Murphy and Seol Ki-Hyeon and the gamble paid off when the former England midfielder equalised on 74 minutes with virtually his first touch. Again the defending was sub-standard as Murphy was left unmarked in the box to calmly slot home a flick on from Niemi's long kick forward.
And Murphy could have clinched a sensational winner a minute later when he wriggled free but shot narrowly over from 22 yards with Schmeichel desperately flinging himself across the goal.
Stoppage time was just as frantic as normal time, with Schmeichel punching a deflected shot, and Geovanni firing over Niemi’s bar. Petrov then whipped a dangerous ball across the face of goal with no success as the whistle went to bring the curtain down on a breathless and highly entertaining evening by the Thames. The teams left the pitch to the apt strains of ‘They Call It Madness’ over the PA system.
From the archives
'Petrov spares Sven from more misery against Sanchez' by Arindam Rej
The last people Sven-Goran Eriksson needed reminding about was a Northern Ireland team of two years ago, who defeated his England side to produce the most humiliating result of his career. Unfortunately, their manager that day, Lawrie Sanchez, and four of his players from that occasion featured in the Fulham team who gave Eriksson a difficult time again last night.
It made for an all-action contest that included a scuffle between Micah Richards and Clint Dempsey that could have seen worse punishment than a booking apiece.
“If you are watching the game, it's entertaining,” said Eriksson. “But if you're in my clothes, then you are not happy with some of the decisions we took when defending.”
“I'm not sure how to feel,” said Sanchez.