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Damien Duff came back to haunt Newcastle tonight by grabbing the winner against his old club to give Fulham a vital win.

Duff grabbed his goal in the second half when he picked up a long ball from Danny Murphy, brushed off Jose Enrique, and slotted in from 12 yards.

Clint Dempsey was twice denied by Magpies keeper Steve Harper, who produced two brilliant saves.

Nile Ranger had Newcastle’s best opportunity when his turn-and-shot was saved by Mark Schwarzer.

It was the only time the Australian keeper, who has just come back from Asian Cup duty, was called into making a save with his opposite number the far busier of the two.

But Harper only really earned his day’s wages in the second half following an opening 45 minutes which saw only two clear-cut chances created.

The closest the home side came to opening the deadlock in that period was when the effervescent Dempsey smashed his shot from the edge of the six-yard area over the Newcastle bar.

Alan Pardew’s Magpies, who had coped admirably during January without the now-departed and injured striker Andy Carroll, were dealt another setback in the forwards department in the 14th minute when a collision with Steve Sidwell resulted in Shola Ameobi coming off with what was later diagnosed as a suspected fractured cheekbone.

Ranger, his replacement, has yet to find his feet in black and white but he did make himself a nuisance when Joey Barton’s in-swinging free-kick caused an uncertain Sidwell to head a yard past his own post.

That was the sum of the good chances in the half, but thankfully the match improved tenfold after the break.

Within five minutes of the restart, Harper pulled off a great low save from Dempsey on the left before Duff followed up by sidefooting the loose ball a yard wide of the other post.

Up the other end, Leon Best, who made his mark at Newcastle this season with a hat-trick against West Ham, twice came close, first when he failed to connect with Jonas Gutierrez’s ball across the six-yard box before heading over from eight yards a minute later.

Despite those two chances, Fulham were looking the more assured with the ball at their feet.

Moussa Dembele, who set up the earlier chance, created the next opportunity for Fulham when he again found Dempsey on the left and the United States striker’s vicious shot was brilliantly pushed over by Harper.

But a few minutes later, the Newcastle number one was given little chance of stopping Duff from scoring after the spritely midfielder dispossessed left-back Enrique and slotted in.

Fulham could have made the scoreline more handsome in the closing moments but Dempsey and Dembele were denied by Newcastle’s man-of-the-match in goal.