The Newcastle faithful made their pilgrimage to St. James’ Park hoping to acclaim Alan Shearer’s 200th Premiership strike but it was Louis Saha who stole the headlines on his return to the north east as Fulham’s French forward claimed a vital point for the Cottagers with a second-half equaliser that seriously dented Newcastle’s chances of qualifying for the Champions’ League.

Saha, who made have pilfered all three points for the Londoners had not been twice thwarted by his former team-mate Shay Given, eventually did cancel out a first half strike from Kieron Dyer as Jean Tigana’s side earned a reward for dominating much of this hard-fought contest. Sean Davis smashed a speculative shot towards goal after Robbie Elliott had half cleared Steed Malbranque’s corner and Saha cleverly diverted the ball beyond the grasp of Given.

The St. James’ Park crowd booed Bobby Robson’s men off the field and, although the former Fulham favourite expressed confidence that his side could still reach Europe’s premier club competition afterwards, he would have been disappointed with the Magpies’ failure to build on Dyer’s opener midway through the first half. There was a touch of fortune about how the England international fired Newcastle ahead after he was the beneficiary of a kind ricochet following Laurent Robert’s headed flick had put the former Ipswich midfielder through on goal from Alan Shearer’s lay-off.

The goal came from one of the home side’s first attacks after Fulham had utterly dominated the opening twenty minutes. Given had to be alert early to clear a Davis through ball with his head from the marauding Marlet before the dangerous Malbranque had twisted and turned away from Aaron Hughes to find his compatriot, who was this time deny by a brilliant saving tackle from Gary Speed.

Given came to the rescue again by diving at the feet of Saha as the French striker had left the home defence for dead and Marlet wasted two one-on-ones in the space of ten minutes after being released behind by the Newcastle back line by Rufus Brevett and Malbranque. Fulham continued to ask all the questions after the interval as well with the sprightly Saha dashing away from Andy O’Brien only to be denied by Given again.

United did belatedly apply some pressure when Robert’s drive from distance was diverted wide of goal by Andy Melville with van der Sar struggling, but the hosts’ saw most of their passes intercepted by Davis, who delivered another commanding display at the heart of the Fulham midfield. It was fitting that the England under-21 international, who has been brilliant since the Whites’ promotion to the top flight, had a part in the equaliser with Saha reacting quickest to touch home the Fulham academy product’s volley past Given.

The Londoners did have to do some defending in the closing stages as substitute Jermaine Jenas shot tamely at van der Sar after being teed up by Dyer on the edge of the box, but the Whites were well worth a share of the spoils.

NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-2): Given; Hughes, Elliott, Distin, O’Brien (Dabizas 89); Speed, Dyer, Solano, Robert; Shearer, Cort (Jenas 68). Subs (not used): Harper, Bernard, Lua-Lua.

BOOKED: Robert.

GOAL: Dyer (21).

FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar; Finnan, Brevett, Goma, Melville; Davis, Collins, Malbranque, Legwinski; Saha, Marlet. Subs (not used): Taylor, Ouaddoh, Harley, Boa Morte, Hayles.

GOAL: Saha (77).

REFEREE: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).