Tomasz Radzinski opened his Premiership goalscoring account for Fulham to earn a vital win against fellow early-season strugglers Southampton.
Radzinski glanced home Luis Boa Morte's near-post cross to leave Saints head coach Steve Wigley still looking for his first Premiership victory.
Kevin Phillips missed a chance to level when Ian Pearce's slip left him with only keeper Edwin van der Sar to beat.
The big Dutchman's stunning late save from Rory Delap preserved their lead.
Referee Graham Poll was specially appointed following Fulham's recent disciplinary problems and he waved away early penalty appeals when Fabrice Fernandes appeared to clip Mark Pembridge's heels just inside the box.
Southampton carved out a good chance on 12 minutes when Anders Svensson carried the ball 70 yards from deep inside his own half.
He slipped a pass to Fernandes who whipped in a cross for James Beattie to glance a header inches wide.
Beattie tried to spark a Southampton second-half revival
Saints then strung the passes together to carve Fulham open on 16 minutes but Phillips found Van der Sar an immovable object with a superb save.
Brian McBride's heavy first touch from Radzinski's cross took him away from goal and, although he was given time to turn, his shot lacked power to trouble Antti Niemi.
On 24 minutes, Fulham took the lead when Boa Morte skipped round Fernandes to deliver a cross into space at the near post where Radzinski nipped in ahead of Andreas Jakobsson to plant in a header.
Phillips sought an immediate response with a tidy turn and stinging shot but Van der Sar was well-placed to save, and then Graeme Le Saux sent in a cross which Beattie attacked with relish at the far post to power a header over the bar.
Radzinski showed his pace at the start of the second half to outstrip Jakobsson but his low cross was too far ahead of McBride and Niemi gathered.
Southampton's reply saw Fernandes twist and turn his way to the byline where he pulled the ball back perfectly to Delap, who blazed his shot horribly wide.
Malbranque made a welcome return for Fulham
The home team sensed a second goal was needed and Malbranque showed neat skills to flick the ball over David Prutton and fire in a cross-shot which would have provided it had McBride made any sort of contact.
Svensson reacted angrily when he was substituted but his replacement Neil McCann outpaced Moritz Volz down the left flank to deliver a cross.
McCann then linked up with Le Saux to get in a cross but Knight stood firm to head clear.
Van der Sar had enjoyed a quiet second-half but had to react to claw away Beattie's searing volley and brilliant defending by Volz denied the England striker who was shaping to nod home Fernandes' cross.
Fulham almost gifted Southampton an equaliser when Pearce's slip left Phillips clear on goal with only Van der Sar to beat, only for him to drag his shot wide.
Van der Sar preserved his side's win with a another brilliant point-blank save to keep out Delap's 85th minute shot.
Fulham: Van der Sar, Volz, Knight, Pearce, Green, Malbranque (McKinlay 85), Pembridge, Legwinski, Boa Morte, McBride, Radzinski (John 72).
Subs Not Used: Crossley, Rehman, Goma.
Goals: Radzinski 24.
Southampton: Niemi, Nilsson, Lundekvam, Jakobsson, Le Saux, Fernandes, Delap, Prutton, Anders Svensson (McCann 61), Phillips, Beattie.
Subs Not Used: Blayney, Kenton, Higginbotham, Crouch.
Ref: G Poll (Hertfordshire).