Pascal Chimbonda’s late equaliser rescued a point for Tottenham after Vincenzo Montella’s penalty looked to have earned 10-man Fulham all three points at Craven Cottage.

Chris Coleman’s side had Heidar Helguson sent off in the second half but seemed on course for victory when Montella rolled home a spot-kick with eight minutes to play after Michael Dawson had been penalised for handball. But Chimbonda forced home at the far post in the 88th minute to secure a point for the visitors and leave Fulham have to settle for a sixth successive league draw.

Steed Malbranque didn’t sparkle on his return to Craven Cottage and it was Fulham’s former Tottenham midfielder Michael Brown who almost reminded his ex-employers what they were missing when he headed over Franck Quedrue’s free-kick in the very first minute. A fired-up Brown had a shot bravely blocked by Chimbonda as the hosts made the more enterprising start.

Tottenham struggled for fluency and Hossam Ghaly spurned their best chance of the first period after venturing infield from the right flank failing to get sufficient power on his shot. At the other end, Brian McBride headed into the side netting and Helguson’s improvised backheel was well held by Paul Robinson after Carlos Bocanegra had kept the ball alive at the back post. McBride was brilliantly denied twice in quick succession by the England goalkeeper as Fulham finished the first period strongly.

The American forward almost scored by accident at the start of the second half, blocking a Dawson clearance and seeing the loose ball fly towards goal – but Robinson gathered. The complexion of the contest changed after Helguson was shown a second yellow card by referee Mike Dean for a late challenge on Tom Huddlestone. Spurs sent on Aaron Lennon and Robbie Keane, who might have been omitted with Wednesday’s North London derby in the League Cup on the horizon, as they went in search of a winner but the key contributions came from Coleman’s substitutes.

Montella replaced Radzinski and Clint Dempsey made his debut – providing the ten men with more fluidity in their forward play. After Dawson handled a goalbound shot from McBride – and was only yellow-carded by Dean – Montella calmly sent Robinson the wrong way from the penalty spot. It looked as if Fulham might hold out for the win but Chimbonda ghosted onto Huddlestone’s free kick with two minutes left and equalised with a low drive past Jan Lastuvka.

FULHAM (4-4-2): Lastuvka; Rosenior, Queudrue, Christanval,, Pearce; Bocanegra, Volz (Dempsey 81), Brown, Radzinski (Montella 71); McBride, Helguson. Subs (not used): Warner, Knight, Omozusi.

BOOKED: Helguson, Queudrue, Brown.

SENT OFF: Helguson.

GOAL: Montella (pen 84).

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (4-4-2): Robinson, Chimbonda, Dawson, Gardner, Young-Pyo Lee; Ghaly (Lennon 61), Tainio (Zokora 27), Huddlestone, Malbranque; Defoe (Keane 67), Berbatov. Subs (not used): Cerny, Assou-Ekotto.

BOOKED: Malbranque, Dawson.

GOAL: Chimbonda (88).

REFREEE: Mike Dean (Wirral).