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Chris Coleman was so furious after Fulham’s meek capitulation against Blackburn Rovers that he gave his players the silent treatment. He admitted in the build up to this weekend’s crunch clash at fellow strugglers Norwich City that he had spent more time with his dog than with the first team squad – and that period of solitude allowed him to come up with the cunning plan that tilted a tense contest in the Cottagers’ favour.

Coleman, who has rather rigidly stuck to his 4-5-1 system that guided the Whites to a surprise ninth place finish in his first full season in charge, changed tack dramatically for the Carrow Road clash. He certainly spooked Nigel Worthington by not only pairing Brian McBride alongside Andrew Cole in attack but opting for a midfield diamond, with Papa Bouba Diop screening the back four, and the silky Steed Malbranque floating behind the front two.

It worked a treat with Norwich barely laying a glove on the Londoners throughout after Cole had pilfered an early lead for the visitors from an incisive Malbranque pass. Fulham have sometimes squandered Malbranque’s mercurial talent by sticking him out wide on the right of midfield, but he was at the heart of every attack in Norfolk, scurrying into dangerous positions in and around the Canaries penalty area and threatening to make this a much more comfortable afternoon. Away wins are rare enough for Coleman – but this must have felt like gold dust.

Diop delivered the sort of commanding display that brought to mind the way he dominated the Premier League in his first season after his surprise switch to Craven Cottage. The Senegalese international bossed the engine room with real authority, striding around the field as he had extra seconds to spare and distributing the ball sensibly. Fulham looked far more comfortable with the imposing ball-winner in front of Zesh Rehman and Ian Pearce, who seemed to win everything in the air.

The key question is whether Coleman has hit upon a formula for success that seems to have eluded Fulham so far this season. Will the Welshman be brave enough to stick with this system when Manchester United head for SW6 next week? The Whites suddenly have a bit of breathing space between themselves and the drop zone – a consequence of what Coleman called a ‘massive’ result and the fact that the five sides below Fulham all lost. It could yet prove a pivotal turning point in what has been a trying season.