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There was a point over the weekend where even the most optimistic Fulham fan must have been starting to concede that the Whites were as good as relegated in February. Fulham’s survival hopes already depended on Scott Parker’s side knitting together the sort of winning run that comes more naturally to Champions’ League contenders but when Burnley run riot at Selhurst Park the gap between eighteenth place and safety felt like a chasm.

But Parker’s belief in his squad has never wavered. A novice manager, the Fulham boss has had to rebuild this side four times. Once, when the Whites were relegated well before the end of their last season in the Premier League and he had only been in the job for a few weeks. That required a dramatic shift in the mentality at Motspur Park – something Parker has referenced regularly throughout his tenure at Craven Cottage. There were the necessary alterations that came as a result of winning the play-off final that were made all the more dramatic by the pandemic and a shortened close season. More remodelling was required when Fulham’s defence was proven to be woefully short in the opening weeks of the season, including a switch in system to successfully accommodate new acquisitions and, most recently, the arrival of new attackers was designed to give the Whites more firepower in attack.

Then there was also a switch in Fulham’s approach. Such is the desperate nature of their position at the wrong end of the table that staying in games after becoming hard to beat – a hallmark of Parker’s time in charge – simply isn’t good enough. Wins are what will dig the Whites out of the mire and that demands a greater sense of adventure. What was most impressive about last night’s remarkable performance at Goodison Park was that it was achieved without anything remotely kamikaze but a majestic mastering of the fundamentals. Fulham have always been pretty in possession with alluring link-up play and they probed patiently in front of Everton for almost the entirety of the first half. It looked like the same old story, until Josh Maja added a bit of ruthlessness in the six-yard box.

This was probably Fulham’s most complete performance under Parker. They might have pulverised Millwall at a lower level, but the dominance of an Everton side with genuine aspirations of finishing above Liverpool was so complete as to be spellbinding. Assured with the ball at feet, confident in a gameplan that had clearly been meticulously planned, the tone for such a commanding display was set in central midfield where the magnificent Harrison Reed roamed imperiously, pirouetting in a manner reminiscent of his manager, and Mario Lemina worked to reduce both the space and ball allowed to Everton’s coterie of creative players. Such was their control in midfield that Fulham’s defenders barely had to cause to worry – it was their opponents who were making last-ditch blocks and hurried clearances.

Parker’s selections were spot on. Ola Aina offered energy and drive from left back, as well as most crucially, a telling final ball when he drove beyond the excellent Ademola Lookman, eager to prove a point on his return to Goodison Park, to get to the byline. The low cross has been strangely removed from Fulham’s football for much of the season but the delivery supplied for Maja’s opener was both simplistic and superb – the sort of service old-fashioned number nine’s thrive upon. Bobby Decordova-Reid buzzed around the fringes of the Everton penalty area with real intent, popping up all over the field with clever touches and passes as he has all year, whilst there were more encouraging signs from Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There might have been a temptation to revert to the tried and tested ploy of playing Ivan Cavaleiro up front, which has worked to a degree against the stronger sides, but Parker’s faith in Maja was rewarded. It may be tempting to consider what might have happened had a striker with his skillset been available for the crunch matches at West Brom and Brighton last month – but it is already clear that he’s added plenty to Fulham’s previously toothless attack. There’s pace and power to worry defenders but also an intelligence about his movement that suggests he may flourish in the top flight.

Consider the way he snaffled both goals. They looked like simple finishes 4but they were made both by artful anticipation and clever runs. He darted away from Mason Holgate to find space behind a clutch of Everton defenders to slide home Aina’s low ball in and break the deadlock at a time when plenty of Fulham fans were wondering if the goal the performance merited would ever come. Maja’s desire was evident in the way the vital second came upon. He did brilliantly to hold up a hopeful ball forward and bring it under his spell before spreading the play smartly out wide. When Reed rifled in a shot from distance, Maja was on the move. The contrast between the striker and a static Everton backline when the ball bounced back off the post was instructive – and it left him with the easiest of finishes.

You could tell from the broad smiles in the post-match interviews that this victory will have done wonders for Fulham’s confidence. They will travel to Turf Moor, another place of pain for the Whites for far too long, will renewed belief for another high stakes encounter on Wednesday. It will be a very different contest – Sean Dyche’s side won’t allow their opponents anything like the freedom to pop the ball around that Fulham enjoyed against Everton – but there can be no doubting that this side are up for the fight. Another great escape doesn’t seem quite as fanciful now.