Vying with Steve Kean as this season's managerial Teflon don, Owen Coyle moved a day closer to losing his untouchable status at the Reebok after his bottom-placed Bolton Wanderers went down to a 13th league defeat.

By the end of Tuesday Coyle or Kean will know more about which of them could follow Steve Bruce as the second Premier League manager to be sacked this season when, in a genuinely crucial encounter, Bolton travel to Kean's Blackburn Rovers.

Coyle, who was heartened by Blackburn losing 2-1 to West Bromwich Albion to keep the gap to them a point, said: "It hurts. I accept it is a results-based business – we're in a dogfight. I accept full responsibility for that as a manager. I know how football works because I know every day I come in I look to do my very best.

"We need to be taking a decent point return from those three games and if we can do that, which I believe we can, it will catapult us in among five or six teams." Coyle was referring to Blackburn, Newcastle United, and Wolverhampton Wanderers, who are up next during the festive period, and there is also Everton on 4 January: four matches that could define his future.

Coyle said: "My chairman [Phil Gartside] understands what we're trying to do at the football club, but equally I accept that what we're trying to put in place for the longevity of the club has to be backed up by results. If we do stay in the Premier League we will be set up the best we have been for years."

Coyle had watched as Fulham were allowed too much space throughout, and in his private moments he must wonder if his players are good enough to save him, and the club.

Martin Jol, the Fulham manager, said Bobby Zamora, with whom he has had his disagreements this term, was not in his squad due to the forward failing a late fitness test. In his absence the Clint Dempsey-Andrew Johnson axis began the difficulties for the visitors before Bryan Ruiz joined the act, creating Fulham's first goal. The Costa Rican followed up to send Bolton into the break two down.

As if with a slide rule, Dempsey played in Johnson on three occasions, but the former England forward's finishing did nothing to impress the watching Fabio Capello. A left-foot effort that rolled the wrong side of Jussi Jaaskelainen's left post was followed by Johnson, hesitant to use the same boot, managing an effort with his right foot that went for a corner.

Fulham's opener arrived when Ruiz ambled into acres of grass down the right, turned to his favoured left foot, and drove in a cross from which Dempsey's glanced header allowed Jasskelainen no chance.

Two minutes later the 26-year-old Ruiz had a second league goal for the club. Brede Hangeland's ball was flicked on, by Dempsey yet again, and when Ruiz strode through he removed Marcos Alonso from the argument, before a chipped finish completed business.

For Bolton, Ivan Klasnic had an effort that went wide and Mark Davies was denied by a save from David Stockdale. But after Coyle reacted to the situation by replacing Dedryck Boyata with Gretar Steinsson and Darren Pratley with Chris Eagles at half-time his team failed to respond.

While Kean continues to face the ire of his supporters, Coyle has escaped. But he did admit: "I can understand why fans can be frustrated and disappointed because I am. If they were to be up in arms I could totally understand that, but what they do know, the majority, they have someone at the club who's trying their best to make sure the club improves."

Coyle, as loyal as he can be to his players, is losing patience with them. "I asked that group in there to go away and think: 'Are they giving their very best for this football club?' If there are one or two that are not they need to up the ante."