Hull City boosted their hopes of avoiding the drop and ended a five-game losing streak with a 2-0 win at home to Fulham on Saturday that brought interim coach Iain Dowie his first victory at the club.
The visitors fielded a much-changed side and paid the price after goals from former Fulham favourite Jimmy Bullard and Craig Fagan either side of half-time. Hull remain in the relegation zone but they are now level on points with fourth-bottom West Ham United, 1-0 losers at home to Stoke, and also have a game in hand on Gianfranco Zola's struggling side.
Dowie was pleased after keeping Fulham out of the net. "The clean sheet was very, very important and we've got four goals in two games, " he said. "The second goal was a fantastic goal and the least he deserved, Fagan, I thought he was magnificent, he never stopped running. The boys have worked their heart out and they deserved that result after the cruel nature of last week's defeat."
Fulham were the first to seriously threaten at the KC Stadium, with Boaz Myhill saving from Zoltan Gera, but the hosts went in front in the 16th minute in circumstances that will concern Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson. Fulham centre-back Chris Smalling has agreed to join United next season but the 20-year-old, who was embarrassed by Carlos Tevez in the 2-1 defeat to Manchester City last weekend, blotted his copybook again by clumsily hauling down Jozy Altidore as the Hull forward tried to turn in the box. Referee Chris Foy awarded a penalty and Bullard placed a peerless spotkick into the top-right corner to silence the boos emanating from the away end.
Visiting coach Roy Hodgson was missing top scorer Bobby Zamora due to a stomach bug and also opted to rest midfielders Danny Murphy and Damien Duff. In Zamora's absence, Clint Dempsey and Gera were pressed into attack and the latter twice had shots hacked off the line before half-time, first by George Boateng and then by Steven Mouyokolo.
In between, Bullard took a change with a long-range free-kick that Mark Schwarzer in the Fulham goal did well to save and the Australian was also on hand to keep out a Dean Marney effort moments later. Hull doubled their advantage after just three minutes of the second half when Fagan headed in Marney's left-wing cross to spark jubilant celebrations in the home dugout.