Liverpool brought the first chill blast of winter to the Cottage, and it blew them right back home. The misconceived refusal to give Charlie Adam a penalty and send off Philippe Senderos on the hour, a spoilsport decision to disallow a goal for Luis Suárez midway through the second half and a red card for the young midfielder Jay Spearing a few minutes later prefaced a crescendo of Fulham attacking which ended with a dreadful Pepe Reina error and a decisive tap-in for Clint Dempsey.
Seldom slow to complain when fortune frowns on his team, Kenny Dalglish was presented with enough excuses to moan from now until New Year's Eve. If Martin Jol felt that his players deserved something for sticking to their task and making the most of 20 minutes of numerical superiority, any dispassionate audit of the match would end with the conclusion that the visitors were robbed.
Yet Liverpool's team contained the biggest individual disappointment, while Fulham's included a performance of infinite promise from a surprising source. Whereas Andy Carroll did little more than lumber about the pitch to no measurable effect during his 77 minutes in the action, Moussa Dembélé looked to have the makings of a player capable of delighting Craven Cottage for many seasons to come.
This was a good night not to be consigned to the bench, swathed in quilted gear and bobble hats. Excellent news, then, for Carroll, handed his seventh Premier League start in a season that has seen his fitness and application questioned. Dalglish paired Carroll and Suárez up front, with Craig Bellamy buzzing around them.
On paper that combination of complementary styles is potent enough to unsettle any Premier League defence, the only question being whether Suárez, Liverpool's key goalscorer, responds well to the presence of a big centre-forward alongside him or prefers to work with the energetic unselfishness offered by Maxi Rodríguez or Dirk Kuyt.
On this occasion it was the Argentinian and the Dutchman who shivered in a wind that seemed to be threatening to turn the nearby Thames into a skating rink, while the Englishman had a chance to run around and cuddle up to Senderos and Brede Hangeland for additional warmth.
Two goals in 12 Premier League appearances this season, five of them as a substitute, is not much of a return on a £35m investment, but eight minutes into Monday night's match Carroll came close to glory. Adam's thoughtful pass found Suárez on the left, the Uruguayan cut the ball back at pace, and Carroll stretched out a boot but saw his effort from 12 yards out fly straight at Mark Schwarzer.
There would be a knockdown from Adam's diagonal ball which led to a shot from Suárez that skimmed past the right-hand post, followed by an attempted shot from the Uruguayan's angled pass that was foiled at source by Hangeland's crunching block, but Carroll never really brought his strength and weight to bear on the match with any sort of consistency or incisiveness.
For most of the time Hangeland and Senderos looked as though they could cope quite comfortably with whatever threat he was able to produce. The Swiss centre-back's nastiest moment came not from Carroll but from Adam, who took advantage of a mix-up in the Fulham midfield on the hour to dribble from the halfway line to the edge of the area, where Senderos barged him over and was extremely fortunate to see Kevin Friend award a free-kick and a yellow card rather than a penalty and a dismissal.
Behind the Liverpool forwards, good work was being done by the all-British midfield trio of Adam, the busy Jordan Henderson and the young Spearing. Dalglish's resources are currently so stretched, following last week's season-ending injury to the unlucky Lucas Leiva, that he has found it necessary to recall the highly promising 19-year-old Jonjo Shelvey from a loan at Blackpool, where he has impressed by scoring six goals in 10 games. Leiva is too good a player not to be missed, however, as Spearing demonstrated when a poorly judged and potentially dangerous tackle on Dembélé led to his dismissal with 18 minutes to go.
Dembélé is definitely someone to watch. The 24-year-old Belgium international, the son of a Malian father and a Belgian mother, cost a mere £5m from AZ Alkmaar when he joined Fulham in Mark Hughes's first month as manager last year, and he looks to be in the best tradition of the club's inside-forwards and attacking midfielders. Roving across the width of the pitch, but doing his best work in the arc behind the main striker, he covers the ground with a supple, low-slung grace, disguises his passes beautifully and needs only to refine his shooting.
If he was a little slow to warm to the contest on Monday night, greater coolness in the closing stages would have brought him a pair of goals. But a backheeled pass to Bryan Ruiz after 80 minutes started an exchange that ended with Dempsey's shot bouncing off the top of the crossbar, a move worth the price of admission alone.