Fulham again underlined their automatic promotion credentials as they returned to London with a valuable three points after beating Nottingham Forest 1-0.
A stunning first-half strike from Harry Arter sealed victory at the City Ground (45+4), although replays suggested the ball inadvertently brushed past the midfielder’s arm as he won the ball at the feet of Forest captain Ben Watson.
The Cottagers’ third win in succession keeps them two points behind west London rivals Brentford in fourth, while Sabri Lamouchi’s men will likely have to settle for a play-off place, trailing second-placed West Brom by nine points.
How Arter’s stunner helped Fulham remain in top-two race
With much of the action taking place in the middle of the park, the first half passed largely without incident on the banks of the River Trent.
Lewis Grabban – now just three goals off the top of the division’s scoring charts – took advantage of Tim Ream’s risky chested interception but shot straight at Marek Rodak, while Bobby Decordova-Reid hit a dipping effort narrowly over at the other end with half-an-hour gone.
But right on the stroke of half-time, Arter drew first blood in sensational style. He clawed back a loose ball at the feet of Watson, got to his feet, swivelled and bent a brilliant effort into the top-right corner.
Lamouchi shuffled his pack shortly after the break and it was the introduction of Alfa Semedo that spurred the hosts on to force an equaliser in a similar manner to how they had been pinned back in the East Midlands derby with Derby at the weekend.
But after an improvised header from Nuno Da Costa was saved by Rodak and Grabban saw a shot bravely blocked by Anthony Knockaert in stoppage-time, the final whistle blew, extending Fulham’s unbeaten run when they have scored first to 22 games.
Man of the match – Harry Arter
Despite its blockbuster billing, this clash had little in terms of goalmouth action but the accolade must go to Arter, who created the chance in typically tough-tackling style and finished it off with uncharacteristic skill to seal a massive three points.
Fulham face Cardiff at Craven Cottage on Friday – in a game live on Sky Sports Football from 8.15pm – while Nottingham Forest travel to Deepdale to take on Preston the following day at 3pm.