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Portsmouth made the most of some good fortune to beat Fulham as Gary O’Neill struck the decisive goal of a dire game after appearing to handle Dario Silva’s cross before firing past Tony Warner. Harry Redknapp made light of the incident afterwards, pointing to O’Neill’s harsh concession of a penalty at Tottenham recently as evidence that these decisions even themselves out. Chris Coleman – not shy of criticising referees in the past – politely disagreed.

This victory puts Portsmouth in a far more encouraging position at the turn of the year than the one Redknapp was presented with when he made the controversial decision to return to Fratton Park from rivals Southampton. The wily old manager is unbeaten since jumping ship from St. Mary’s – and Pompey are suddenly just two wins from safety.

The slenderest of home wins seemed a long way away when Fulham began brightly – posing particular problems for Portsmouth from set plays. Heidar Helguson couldn’t turn Brian McBride’s near post flick on goalwards but the ball did drop invitingly for Tomasz Radzinski only for the Canadian international to drag his shot wide. McBride headed over and Helguson was denied by a smart save from debutant Sander Westerveld before the Icelandic striker limped off with an ankle injury.

Redknapp’s charges gradually got a foothold in the contest and might have gone in front when O’Neill took on what seemed like the entirety of the Fulham defence single-handedly before shooting disappointingly off target. The lively Lomana Lua-Lua then drew a fine stop from Tony Warner with a clever free-kick and teed up Silva, who crashed an effort off the woodwork. The Uruguayan striker did lay off the decisive goal for O’Neill with a precise cross two minutes before the break.

The hosts dominated the second half but couldn’t kill off the contest. Warner did well to thwart Lua-Lua from close range before the former Newcastle forward curled another effort over the crossbar. Matty Taylor came agonisingly close to converting Laurent Robert’s teasing cross and O’Neill drove just wide at the death.

PORTSMOUTH (4-3-3): Westerveld, Priske, O’Brien, Stefanovic, Griffin, O’Neil, Hughes, Taylor, LuaLua, Silva (Karadas 86), Robert (Cisse 90). Subs (not used): Guatelli, Viafara, Todorov.

BOOKED: Karadas.

GOAL: O’Neill (43).

FULHAM (4-4-2): Warner; Leacock, Rosenior, Knight, Goma; Legwinski, Elrich (Bocanegra 59), Radzinski, Boa Morte; McBride, Helguson (John 28). Subs (not used): Crossley, N. Jensen, Pearce.

BOOKED: Rosenior, Bocanegra.

REFEREE: Mike Riley (West Yorkshire).

ATTENDANCE: 19,101.