Newcastle striker Andy Carroll was denied an eighth goal of the season by a stunning save from Mark Schwarzer as Fulham fought their way to a point at St James’ Park.
A crowd of 44,686 thought the 21-year-old, who could win a first senior England call-up on Saturday evening, had opened the scoring with a stinging 52nd-minute volley, only for the Australian goalkeeper to claw it out of the bottom corner.
Schwarzer also made two good saves from Peter Lovenkrands to preserve his clean sheet on another frustrating afternoon for Chris Hughton’s men on their own park.
It could have been worse for the Magpies, who saw Moussa Dembele’s 70th-minute volley come back off the crossbar after Tim Krul had kept out three efforts from Clint Dempsey and another from Zoltan Gera. But they at least claimed another point to add to their survival fund with the total now standing at 18.
St James’ Park was something of a fortress for the Magpies last season when they went through the entire campaign without a single defeat on home turf.
This time around, however, their fortunes have been mixed to say the least with thumping victories over Aston Villa and Sunderland having gone hand in hand with depressing defeats at the hands of Blackpool, Stoke and Blackburn.
What the home fans were hoping for was the kind of rousing start their side got off to against Villa and the Black Cats; what they got instead was a nervy opening 45 minutes during which they saw plenty of effort but too little craft.
Man of the moment Carroll was handled well by Brede Hangeland, while the Fulham defence as a unit proved equally resilient.
After a slow start the visitors worked their way into the game as their passing and movement stretched their hosts and it was they who mustered the first serious attempts on goal in a flurry of activity.
First Krul had to come from his line to block Dempsey’s close-range effort after Hangeland had flicked on a 28th-minute Simon Davies corner, and he then had to dive full length to turn away Gera’s left-foot drive from 20 yards.
He was at full stretch once again on the half-hour to turn away Dempsey’s curling shot with Fulham starting to dominate.
However, Newcastle finished the half strongly and might have taken the lead themselves eight minutes before the break.
Danny Guthrie, deputising for the suspended Joey Barton, delivered a corner perfectly into Carroll’s run and the striker’s volley was unwittingly blocked by team-mate Kevin Nolan on the line. The rebound dropped to Lovenkrands and he smashed it towards goal only for Schwarzer to save instinctively.
But as the half-time whistle sounded, the anxiety in the stands had decreased little. The home side needed only two minutes of the second half to call Schwarzer into action once again when Guthrie slid the ball into Lovenkrands’ path and his shot was parried by the Australian with Hangeland clearing the loose ball.
Schwarzer was extended even further five minutes later when Carroll ran on to a clearance 22 yards out and blasted in a stinging volley which was heading into the bottom corner before the goalkeeper got down to turn it away.
But Krul had to match his opposite number’s feat four minutes later when Dempsey ran on to Dembele’s lay-off and fired firmly towards the bottom corner.
However, Newcastle went close once again with 66 minutes gone when Jonas Gutierrez and Guthrie broke at pace for the latter to cross for Lovenkrands, whose firm header was saved by Schwarzer.
Mike Williamson had to make a timely intervention to deny Cottagers striker Andrew Johnson, making his first league start since January, with 69 minutes gone, and from the resulting corner substitute Dickson Etuhu’s header was blocked and Dembele rattled the crossbar with a volley.
Hughton threw on the youthful legs of Nile Ranger and Wayne Routledge with time fast running out, but it was Carroll who went closest as time ran down with Hangeland making a priceless block to keep out his 85th-minute strike.
Newcastle striker Andy Carroll, who came closest to breaking the deadlock, earned the praise of both managers after the match.
Newcastle boss Chris Hughton said: “He is a young player who we have wanted to make very good progress – he has done exactly that. He has added goals to his game. He is very different to most other strikers and he couldn’t have done any more this season to stake a claim (for England).
“When we decided to give him that number nine shirt, it was because we felt he could very much develop into that role, and he couldn’t have done any more than he has done.”
Fulham boss Mark Hughes saw central defender Brede Hangeland deal well with the Gateshead-born frontman, but is confident he can make an impression on the international stage when his chance comes.
He said: “He will certainly make an impression. Whether or not he would be able to go straight in and cement a place long-term, that’s a different debate. But if he was involved, he would certainly make people sit up and take notice of him, certainly in opposition.
“He’s a difficult player to deal with and if he gets the right service, which on occasions he has had this season, then he’s a real threat and you have to acknowledge that.”
Carroll might have proved the match-winner once again had it not been for the excellence of Mark Schwarzer, but Tim Krul was also busy in the Newcastle goal. The Dutchman denied Clint Dempsey three times, but needed the help of the woodwork to keep out Moussa Dembele’s 70th-minute volley.
Hughes, however, was happy enough with a point. He said: “We are pleased with what we have produced today. It was important we came here and were really positive, and I think we were. From our point of view, we very much view it as a very good, professional away performance today.”
Meanwhile, Hughton admitted his frustration that the search for a new number two in the wake of Colin Calderwood’s departure is still ongoing.
He said: “It is frustrating because it’s a demanding job, certainly at this level. What I do have is a very good staff. It’s a small staff, but it is a very good staff, and there are some advantages to that. But we have lost a very good number two and we do need to replace him.”
NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-2): Krul; Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, Jose Enrique; Guthrie (Routledge 76), Tiote, Nolan, Gutierrez; Carroll, Lovenkrands (Ranger 76). Subs (not used): Soderberg, Campbell, Smith, Xisco, S. Taylor.
BOOKED: Williamson, Tiote.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Kelly, Duff, Hughes, Hangeland; Murphy, Dempsey, Davies, Gera (Etuhu 69); A. Johnson (E. Johnson 89), Dembele. Subs (not used): Stockdale, Pantsil, Briggs, Greening, Kamara.
BOOKED: Hangeland, Murphy.
REFEREE: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).