One manager was absent, the other was beside himself with joy. As Alan Pardew began his three-match stadium ban for head-butting Hull's David Meyler, Felix Magath celebrated his first victory since taking charge of Fulham a month ago. "I am happy, proud, lucky!" gushed the German, whose insistence that Fulham can avoid relegation looks a little less ludicrous now, even if they remain four points below 17th-placed Crystal Palace and saddled with a ruinous goal difference.
"When you begin a new job it is extraordinarily important that you get a win," said Magath, who became Fulham's third manager of the season when he replaced René Meulensteen a month ago. "It gives the players confidence and trust, so it was very necessary for everybody that we got this win."
Not only was it the first victory of Magath's tenure, it was Fulham's first in the Premier League since New Year's Day, as a season of frequent changes on and off the pitch had yielded just one constant for Fulham: disappointing results. Magath made yet more alterations for this game, making five switches to the side that had lost last week to Cardiff City, and he may have found a timely formula for success. It was a match of meagre quality but Fulham at least displayed a verve and cohesion that gives them hope of climbing out of trouble.
Magath dared to omit expensive recruits, though he said that the £12m striker Kostas Mitroglou was injured and Darren Bent could not play "for private reasons". Their absence meant that the main scoring burden fell on 19-year-old Cauley Woodrow, who showed the mobility that the more experienced pair lack but, alas, arrived fractionally too late to prod the ball into the net in the seventh minute when a Lewis Holtby free-kick flew across the face of goal.
Fulham had the better of the play and a 20-yard curling shot from Holtby forced a good save from Tim Krul but Newcastle nearly scored on the counterattack in the 36th minute, only for David Stockdale to dive across his goal to tip away a shot from Papiss Cissé. Stockdale had an excellent game, contributing largely to Fulham's first clean sheet since early December and vindicating Magath's decision to drop Maarten Stekelenburg."
"Maarten is a quiet keeper, David is louder," explained Magath. "That was the idea, we needed someone who gives more excitement to the players."
Although Fulham were on top for the first half, Pardew, watching on a feed in the team hotel, did not see much to wind him up. He communicated only twice with his No2, John Carver, during the game. "He was really calm at half-time," said Carver. "We had an analyst in the hotel with the gaffer and we had one on the bench, speaking to Steve Stone, then on to me. It was pretty brief, just two conversations and that was it."
Fulham, by contrast, were infuriated when they were given cause to curse the accuracy of technology just after the hour. A deflected John Heitinga shot from 25 yards struck the underside of the crossbar and then, according to the home fans and players, bounced down behind the line. But the referee, Howard Webb, signalled for play to continue. Incredulous gasps went around Craven Cottage when the giant screen showed the Hawkeye images that confirmed that the decision was correct.
Such fine margins can be the difference between success and failure but not this time, as Newcastle contrived to make Fulham feel better. First Cissé bungled when sent through on goal and then Krul erred to help the home side win. Askhan Dejagah's shot from 20 yards after he had cut in from the left was powerfully struck but Krul should have stopped it. Instead it went under his hands and into the net. Krul attempted to atone for that mistake when he came up for a corner in stoppage time. The ball broke to him on the edge of the area and his shot hit Heitinga's hand but no penalty was awarded, much to the anger of Newcastle. But this time they restrained themselves. "I certainly had to count to 10," said Carver. "After what's gone on in the last few weeks we have to be on our best behaviour."