This was a game that Fulham might have won several times over. And yet they did so only after Newcastle United had staged an improbable fightback.

One of the Fulham heroes was the full-back Sascha Riether, who made two goalline clearances and, in the end, they were grateful that Fabricio Coloccini, the Newcastle centre-half, hit only the top of the far post with a glorious, curling shot.

Coloccini best summed up the wackiness. At fault in the buildup to Steve Sidwell's opening goal, he was caught asleep by Hugo Rodallega's winner. But he was a threat in the other area and he saw a majestic, first-half header nodded off the line by Riether. The German's second heart-stopping clearance came before the interval from Demba Ba's shot.

Fulham had the majority of the chances, they had the game's outstanding performer in Dimitar Berbatov and they deserved to register their first win in eight Premier League games, even if Martin Jol admitted to catching a lucky break on Coloccini's late effort. The Newcastle captain's control and touch were matched by his vision and class to bend the shot tantalisingly close. "They could have had a result," the Fulham manager said.

Alan Pardew said pretty much the same. After Newcastle had struggled to get started and Fulham had produced a thrilling burst midway through the first half, Pardew's team fashioned a foothold. Hatem Ben Arfa, back after a hamstring injury, scored the equaliser in the second half with a shot from distance that flicked off John Arne Riise and bamboozled Mark Schwarzer. At the that point, Pardew felt that his team had "the game by the scruff of the neck".

It only made the dreadful concession to Rodallega more galling. From Damien Duff's whipped free-kick, Coloccini simply watched the Fulham striker move forward, rise and glance a free header past Tim Krul. "We've got no one to blame but ourselves," Pardew said. "That was a soft second goal."

The trip home was a time for soul-searching. Two years on from Pardew's appointment, Newcastle find themselves frustrated, with rewards proving elusive. Pardew commented that they had played worse than this last season and got results. They sit four points above the relegation zone and face both Manchester clubs and Arsenal before the end of the month. "I am worried because we are not picking up enough points," Pardew said.

Berbatov wore tights. Any self-respecting, semi-naked Geordie would have confirmed that it was not that cold but Berbatov does what he wants. He played as if knocking about with mates on a synthetic pitch after work and, although he did not score, he thrilled when, to quote Pardew, he plucked balls out of the sky and made them "die on his toe".

"He was special," Pardew said. "The TV cameras were here and he was in the mood." Jol praised Berbatov for covering "more ground than ever before" and for linking Fulham's play "as a lower 10, as we would say in Holland".

Alex Kacaniklic had gone close in the first minute and Rodallega shot wastefully when well-placed before Sidwell's shot deflected decisively off Mike Williamson to beat Krul after Coloccini had botched a tackle on Duff.

Fulham should have been out of sight by the half-hour but Krul denied Berbatov one-on-one and the Bulgarian then saw a shot smuggled clear by a combination of Danny Simpson and Krul.

Newcastle's rally was startling. Riether distinguished himself on the line and, after Berbatov had hit the side-netting in the second half, Ben Arfa shimmied and tried his luck from the right-hand edge of the area to score.

Fulham, though, dug deep. Berbatov released Sidwell, who was thwarted by Krul, before Rodallega struck the winner. Coloccini so nearly made amends but Fulham finished strongly, with the substitute Mladen Petric skimming the crossbar from distance.