Goals from Mark Viduka and Michael Owen clinched Newcastle’s first win in fourteen league fixtures and ended Kevin Keegan’s ten match wait for a victory following his return to St. James’ Park. The former Fulham manager shared sympathetic words with Roy Hodgson afterwards with this defeat leaving the Whites with a moment to climb in their battle against relegation.

It looked set a long afternoon for the Londoners when Australian forward Viduka was given far too much time and space in the penalty area to get onto a pass from Geremi. He finished with all the assurance of a man who has scored well over a century of Premier League goals. It might have been worse had Owen punished Fulham’s defenders for inexplicably leaving him unattended at a free-kick but the England international contrived to guide his free header wide. The hosts were in control throughout but had to wait for Owen to head home a Geremi set-play.

Fulham looked like rabbits in the headlights at times, unable to impose themselves on proceedings and looked deflated by the end. The closest the Whites came to constructing a route back into the contest was through Jimmy Bullard. The talismanic midfielder pulled the strings from a playmaking position and had the confidence to try a number of long-range shots but the experienced Steve Harper wasn’t seriously stretched.

A huge roar greeted the final whistle. Newcastle’s first three points since the last-gasp victory at Craven Cottage in December that ended Lawrie Sanchez’s reign moves them six points clear off the relegation zone, but Fulham’s predicament looks particularly perilous. The Whites are now four points from safety with only seven games to play. Hodgson talked a good game afterwards, but you wondered whether he was trying to convince sceptical players or himself.

It was veteran goalkeeper Keller who kept Fulham in this contest. He claimed a free header from Owen and made a smart diving save to deny the ex-Liverpool striker, who had starred at St. Andrew’s last week. The American custodian showed all of his agility to turn an effort from Obafemi Martins – which appeared to be creeping inside the far corner – aside. Keller saved again from Joey Barton and Nicky Butt in the second period but was helpless when Owen outjumped the Fulham defence to score the crucial second goal with seven minutes remaining.

NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-3-3): Harper; Beye (Edgar 87), Taylor, Faye, Jose Enrique; Geremi, Butt, Barton; Owen, Viduka (Smith 84), Martins (N’Zogbia 74). Subs (not used): Forster, Carroll.

GOALS: Viduka (6), Owen (83).

FULHAM (4-4-2): Keller; Stalteri (Healy 84), Konchesky, Hughes, Hangeland; Andreasen, Murphy (Volz 71), Bullard, Davies; McBride (Dempsey 66), Johnson. Subs (not used): Warner, Bocanegra.


REFEREE: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).