Matt Derbyshire's late winner gave Paul Ince his first home win as Blackburn Rovers manager and bragging rights over his Fulham counterpart Roy Hodgson, once his boss at Inter Milan.

Derbyshire was only involved for the final quarter-hour of a well-balanced contest. But the local hero made the difference six minutes from the end with a goal that was very much a South American production. Chilean Carlos Villanueva, making his first Premier League appearance as a substitute, delivered a superb through ball that Paraguayan striker Roque Santa Cruz flicked on for Derbyshire to claim his third goal of the season.

Fulham, who only escaped relegation on the final day of last season, have been a relevation since the start of this campaign and Hodgson's men arrived at Ewood Park looking for a third straight win. They very nearly got off to a perfect start when summer signing Andy Johnson drew a superb save from former England goalkeeper Paul Robinson, who somehow palmed the striker's close-range shot over the bar.

Keith Andrews then shot into the side-netting for Blackburn,and it took a fine save from Mark Schwarzer to keep out Roque Santa Cruz's drive as the home side responded. Andrews picked up a deserved booking midway through the opening period after hacking down Jimmy Bullard, who was also on the receiving end of a brutish challenge from Brett Emerton.

From the resulting free-kick, Danny Murphy found Bobby Zamora, who headed over. Santa Cruz responded for Blackburn by breaking clear of the Fulham back four, but his shot was directed straight at Schwarzer.

Emerton came closest to breaking the deadlock before the interval, cutting in from the left and unleashing a curling shot that beat his fellow Australia international Schwarzer but came back off the post. That was to be as close as the home side came until Derbyshire emerged from the bench to secure a win that lifts Blackburn clear of the relegation zone.

Fulham's best chance after the break came in the 63rd minute, when Johnson got clear and fired in a low shot that Robinson saved but could not hold, forcing Ryan Nelson to make an important clearance under pressure from Simon Davies.