The Cottagers were seconds away from an unlikely derby success until an effort from West Ham substitute Junior Stanislas took a substantial deflection off Aaron Hughes, the central defender, and squirmed past goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
Had the home side been condemned to a fourth successive Premier League defeat, they could hardly have complained, so impressive had Hodgson’s side been in the second period, when they overturned a goal deficit to lead despite being a man down.
Diomansy Kamara, handed the lone striker’s role in a half-time reshuffle made necessary by Kagisho Dikgacoi’s dismissal, coerced Matthew Upson into conceding a penalty within two minutes of the restart and, after Danny Murphy had dispatched that, Zoltan Gera took advantage of some kamikaze goalkeeping from Robert Green to put Fulham ahead before the hour mark.
At that point, Carlton Cole’s early opener must have felt like ancient history to fans who are still waiting to savour a victory at this ground in 2009-10.
“We played well from the first minute,” Hodgson said. “When we went a goal down, it was against the run of play. Then we were reduced to 10 men and there was a period of disorganisation.
“But we sorted that out at half-time and had we won the game I would like to think that no-one would have begrudged us the victory because I thought we were really worth it.
“We know that games last 94 or 95 minutes and shots do get deflected. We saw it on Saturday when Sunderland were denied a famous victory at Old Trafford and we were denied a famous victory at West Ham in exactly the same way.”
Dikgacoi’s ejection four minutes before half-time ruined the South African’s Premier League debut. Referee Phil Dowd, having consulted with linesman Darren Cann, ruled he had head-butted Scott Parker in a confrontation that followed a midfield challenge that may also have involved a hand in the West Ham man’s face.
Hodgson made it clear he felt his man had been hard done by.
“I come from a generation where violent conduct is, well, violent,” he said. “I have a problem getting my head round two players going nose to nose and one of them getting sent off for violent conduct.”
The red card should have put Fulham in an impossible position but that was not how it turned out at all. Instead it was Gianfranco Zola, the West Ham manager, who was left with a problem to solve, especially as the Hammers have not won since the opening day and Portsmouth’s win at Wolves has brought them within striking distance.
The Italian was particularly annoyed by his players’ reaction to the Fulham goals.
“You know what was poor?” he asked. “When we conceded a goal, the whole team lost faith and belief and that’s something that I really hate.
“Earlier Arsenal were losing twice and in the end they won 6-2. That’s the kind of belief we have to keep. No matter what happens you have to keep playing your own football.
“I don’t like that kind of attitude. We have to react and we have to be stronger. Of course I made those points in the dressing room. I’m going to be working on that, don’t you worry.”
REFEREE: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire) 6: Did not see the sending-off incident clearly, as he needed a chat with linesman Darren Cann before showing a straight red card.
MATCH RATING: **** This was a slow starter but the sending off perked everyone up. The home side had to bust a gut to pull level at the end.