Why add insult to injury time? For a third successive home match, Newcastle earned victory courtesy of a desperately late goal from Papiss Cisse.
“It was a priceless goal, you really couldn’t put a price on it,” Alan Pardew, the manager who ended up celebrating in with the supporters sat behind his dugout, said. He added: “It was a big moment, there’s no doubt about that. We knew the pressure we were under and it showed. It was more important to us than Fulham in the end. I ended up in the crowd, and it was sheer relief more than anything. I was carrying all the stresses of the situation, and it was nice to jump in to celebrate with them.
He smiled: “I couldn’t really hear the cheering, because someone’s arm kept hitting the side of my head. I did check my pockets afterwards, and my money was still there.”
Cisse followed up injury-time winning goals against Anzhi and Stoke City here with a typically predatory strike that gave the visitors little time to respond. The Senegal international left Fulham’s players slumped on the turf after a fierce finish past Mark Schwarzer from 10 yards when he controlled a mis-hit shot from Yohan Cabaye to claim his 12th goal of the season.
Newcastle, who are likely to be without the hamstrung Davide Santon for the remainder of the season, go into Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby with a five-point cushion over Sunderland. Pardew warned against complacency, however, adding: “We’ve got to keep a very close eye on things at the bottom. I don’t know what the total will be to secure safety this season, but it might be higher than people think.
Fulham deserved at least a point, but not for the first time Martin Jol, their Dutch manager, found compatriot Tim Krul in the Newcastle goal a formidable barrier to his side’s progress as the hosts recorded a fourth consecutive home league win.
The Netherlands international made fine saves either side of the interval from Stalislav Manolev and Dimitar Berbatov.
“It’s a hard one to take,” Jol insisted. “We controlled the game for long spells and we just needed a break to get that first goal.
“Credit to Newcastle, they kept coming at us, but we felt we could have come away with all three points.”
Newcastle increased the pressure after the break, striking the frame of the goal in quick succession through substitute Vurnon Anita’s deflected long-range shot, Yoan Gouffran’s header and Cisse’s follow-up. Shola Ameobi headed badly wide from Danny Simpson’s cross before Schwarzer saved well low to his left to deny Moussa Sissoko’s header. Cisse then took centre-stage, though it might have been a different story as the Senegalese didn’t take kindly to some half-time words of wisdom from his manager.
“At half time, I showed Papiss a clip of a great chance when he should have passed to Sylvain Marveaux for a tap in,” Pardew added. “To be honest, his reaction was very negative.
“I actually questioned whether that was the right thing to do, but then he pops up at the end to win it.”