Fulham moved eight points clear at the top of the Championship after a double from Aleksandar Mitrovic, who moved onto thirty goals for the season, broke Millwall’s resistance at Craven Cottage this evening. The Serbian ended nearly half an hour’s worth of frustration by firing home clinically after Alex Pearce had failed to clear a Neco Williams cross and doubled Fulham’s lead from close range when Bartsoz Bialkowski’s brilliant save denied Fabio Carvalho. Although Bobby Decordova-Reid gobbled up a late third, this was far from a routine victory – Marek Rodak made excellent reaction saves to keep out substitute Jed Wallace and Benik Afobe – but Gary Rowett’s men couldn’t make their moments of promise pay.

A three-goal margin was harsh on the Lions who contained Fulham comfortably for much of the first half. They made the early running after Antonee Robinson’s shocking pass was seized upon by Oli Burke, whose low cross was smuggled out of danger by a combination of Rodak and Tosin Adarabioyo. In a lively opening, Bialkowski spread himself well to deny Mitrovic after Neeskens Kebano’s blocked shot fell at his feet before Millwall midfielder Maikel Kieftenbeld then spurned a glorious opportunity, sending a shot over after Mason Bennett had burst to the byline.

Fulham’s frustration at not being able to play through midfield was summed up by wild drives from distance by both full backs. That their way through eventually came through the Welsh connection down the right flank was not surprising. Neco Williams and Harry Wilson have an understanding honed at Melwood and developed on the international stage under Robert Page. Fulham’s first sighting of it saw the pair exchange passes at pace and Williams’ cross reached Mitrovic, who fired a low finish into the net.

The goal visibly relaxed the hosts. Some of the tricks and passing combinations came out. Cairney and Carvalho linked up in a lovely move that saw the teenager drill one into Bialkowski’s gloves and some wizardry on the left wing from Kebano carved out an opening for Tim Ream, but the American veteran could only send the ball spiralling over the bar off his shoulder. Deep into stoppage time, Cairney crept onto a cut back from Kebano but the Fulham captain’s strike screamed just over as he lost his footing.

Millwall made a bright start to the second half. Murray Wallace produced a fine piece of skill to work the space for a cross from the left and former Fulham defender Shaun Hutchinson saw his shot blocked by Ream. Fulham immediately made their visitors pay. Cairney’s clever ball into the box caused consternation in the Millwall defence, allowing Carvalho to slam a shot goalwards. Bialkowski somehow kept it out but Mitrovic was on hand to power home the rebound. That looked like the key for the floodgates to open, but while the Serb almost had a hat-trick immediately, spooning over the bar after fashioning an opening for himself, it was Rowett’s side who then enjoyed their best spell of the contest.

The catalyst for the Millwall momentum came from the introduction of Jed Wallace. The substitute quickly twice teed up Bennett, who shot over from promising positions, before spurning a great opportunity himself. Ollie Burke played him in twelve yards but Wallace could only shoot straight at Rodak and Bennett contrived to miss the target completely with the follow-up. Bialkowski made magnificent reaction stops to deny Kebano and Wilson in quick succession, but Millwall remained a threat and carved out another good chance with ten minutes to play.

Jake Cooper flicked on a long ball from the back into the path of Afobe but Rodak made himself pick to divert the striker’s deft touch past the post. Had Millwall taken any of those chances, Fulham could have been set for another nervy finish like against Blackpool a fortnight ago. Instead, the visitors got a lesson in ruthlessness. Mitrovic turned provider this time, with a reprise of his wonderful through ball at Manchester City releasing Wilson, before Decordova-Reid touched home Carvalho’s cross-cum-shot as the Millwall defence waited in vain for an offside flag.

A comprehensive victory and a clean sheet would have satisfied Silva, but the result was only secondary on an emotional evening at the Cottage. Following the final whistle, the Fulham head coach joined his squad in walking over to the Hammersmith End to embrace the family of Paul Parish, who sadly passed away two weeks ago. Parish was remembered with a minute’s applause earlier in the evening – and this was a reminder that football, however much we all love it, is ultimately insignificant.

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Williams, A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Chalobah, Cairney (Reed 71); Wilson, Kebano (Decordova-Reid 76), Carvalho, Mitrovic (Muniz 90). Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Hector, Seri, Cavaleiro.

BOOKED: Mitrovic.

GOAL: Mitrovic (29, 60), Decordova-Reid (87).

MILLWALL (3-4-2-1): Bialkowski; Hutchinson, Cooper, Pearce (J. Wallace 57); McNamara, M. Wallace, Kieftenbeld, B. Mitchell; Bennett (Burey 77), Burke (Freeman 77); Afobe. Subs (not used): Long, Evans, Saville, Mahoney.

BOOKED: Kieftenbeld, Hutchinson, Bennett.

REFEREE: Matt Donohue (Greater Manchester).