He made a quite-brilliant one-handed save at point-blank range from Johnson's header, before Clint Dempsey's goal-bound follow-up shot cannoned against the keeper's face.
Arsenal looked lethargic and disinterested at times with the returning Andrey Arshavin distinctly off-colour, though both Fabregas and Arshavin should have done better than blaze over from promising positions inside the Fulham box.
But the Cottagers were the game's dominant force and they continued to push Arsenal back deep into their own half as they tried to find a breakthrough.
Hodgson pays credit to team
Unfortunately for them, Mannone was in sparkling form and once again he came to the Gunners' rescue with a fine push away from Gera's low 18-yard drive.
Zamora crashed a shot wide as Fulham signalled their intentions to continue an assault on the Arsenal goal at the start of the second half, but shortly after and totally against the run of play, the visitors went ahead.
They did so in partly due thanks to a mistake as Paul Konchesky gave the ball away but it was also thanks to Fabregas's delightful lofted pass for Van Persie and the Dutchman's fabulous instant control and shot into the far corner.
For a brief moment Arsenal found their A-game and a superb passing move finished with Schwarzer tipping away Nicklas Bendtner's drive, but Fulham soon got back on top.
They piled forward in search for an equaliser but Mannone stuck out a hand to stop Johnson's header from a Zamora cross before Bacary Sagna and William Gallas both made crucial late blocks as Arsenal found themselves under the cosh.
Zamora must have thought he had equalised when he met a free-kick three yards out, but once more his header was parried away thanks to the fabulous reflexes of Mannone.
Wenger optimistic about team this season
Arsenal go fifth while Fulham stay 17th, but on this evidence the home side has little to worry about in the way of a relegation battle.
As for the Gunners, they may just have stumbled upon a new hero in the shape of Mannone.
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson:
"I thought we played well - at 0-0 I was rather hoping we could get something from the game.
"We came across a goalkeeper in splendid form and a determined Arsenal team - and overall we can count ourselves unlucky not to get something from the game.
"But it was a good performance over the 95 minutes, I can't fault the effort or quality of our play but they showed their quality in the penalty box can be a decisive factor when it's a close game.
"We played so well today, it bodes well for the future.
"Every time you lose it's not easy to put a brave face on it but I'm not as disappointed as I was last week (Wolves), when I thought our performance merited a defeat."
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger:
"It was a good performance in the second half especially.
"Today I am very happy. We compensated for a lack of fluidity and cohesion with attitude, spirit and desire and of course it was a good display by Mannone.
"You go from game to game, you judge a goalkeeper by a longer number of games.
"He has shown he has quality and composure and has made good decisions but you do not reject the other goalkeepers.
"It was vital for us to come back and with Chelsea losing today the Premier League became more compact again and that is interesting. We are in a strong position."
90:00+5:00 Emmanuel Eboue produces a right-footed shot from the edge of the area and misses to the left of the goal.
90:00+4:34 Free kick awarded for a foul by Nicklas Bendtner on Zoltan Gera. Direct free kick taken by Mark Schwarzer.
90:00+3:58 Zoltan Gera concedes a free kick for a foul on Thomas Vermaelen. Direct free kick taken by Vito Mannone.
90:00+1:55 Corner from the right by-line taken by Clinton Dempsey, clearance made by William Gallas.
90:00+0:36 Jonathan Greening sends in a cross, Clinton Dempsey has a headed effort at goal from just inside the penalty area that misses
to the right of the goal.
89:52 Nicklas Bendtner conjures a right-footed shot from inside the six-yard box that clears the bar.
87:20 Free kick awarded for a foul by Clinton Dempsey on Bacary Sagna. A cross is delivered by Francesc Fabregas, Nicklas Bendtner
has a header from close in and clears the crossbar.
86:19 Bobby Zamora fouled by William Gallas, the ref awards a free kick. Paul Konchesky delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed
from left channel, clearance by Vassiriki Diaby.
85:59 Emmanuel Eboue takes a shot. Save by Mark Schwarzer.
85:01 Nicklas Bendtner is adjudged to have handled the ball. Direct free kick taken by Aaron Hughes.
82:32 Substitution Jonathan Greening joins the action as a substitute, replacing Dickson Etuhu.
82:32 Substitution Emmanuel Eboue on for Robin van Persie.
82:06 Danny Murphy takes a shot. Vito Mannone makes a save.
80:55 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Vassiriki Diaby by Danny Murphy. Vito Mannone takes the direct free kick.
78:08 Free kick taken by Robin van Persie. Aaron Hughes fouled by Nicklas Bendtner, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken
by Mark Schwarzer. Unfair challenge on Bobby Zamora by Vassiriki Diaby results in a free kick. Paul Konchesky crosses the
ball, Bobby Zamora takes a shot. Save by Vito Mannone.
78:08 Booking The referee cautions Paul Konchesky for unsporting behaviour.
77:57 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Robin van Persie by Paul Konchesky.
77:14 Andrew Johnson produces a drilled right-footed shot from 20 yards. Save made by Vito Mannone.
76:14 Vassiriki Diaby challenges Bobby Zamora unfairly and gives away a free kick. Paul Konchesky delivers the ball from the free
kick left-footed from right channel, Vito Mannone makes a save.
75:44 Foul by Alexandre Song Billong on Dickson Etuhu, free kick awarded. Danny Murphy restarts play with the free kick.
72:10 Corner taken right-footed by Francesc Fabregas from the left by-line, Danny Murphy makes a clearance.
71:20 Alexandre Song Billong takes a shot from deep inside the box clearing the bar.
70:37 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie from the right by-line, Clinton Dempsey manages to make a clearance.
69:29 The free kick is delivered right-footed by Francesc Fabregas from left wing. The assistant referee signals for offside against
William Gallas. Mark Schwarzer restarts play with the free kick.
69:29 Booking John Pantsil is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.
69:23 John Pantsil challenges Tomas Rosicky unfairly and gives away a free kick.
67:58 Substitution Tomas Rosicky comes on in place of Andrey Arshavin.
66:51 Bobby Zamora has an effort at goal from 12 yards. Alexandre Song Billong gets a block in.
66:05 Clinton Dempsey takes a shot. Bacary Sagna gets a block in. Corner taken by Danny Murphy.
63:00 Andrew Johnson is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Free kick taken by Vito Mannone.
61:39 Nicklas Bendtner produces a right-footed shot from just outside the penalty box that misses to the left of the target.
60:43 Thomas Vermaelen concedes a free kick for a foul on Bobby Zamora. Danny Murphy restarts play with the free kick.
60:07 Shot by Clinton Dempsey missed to the left of goal.
58:23 Foul by Paul Konchesky on Robin van Persie, free kick awarded. The free kick is swung in right-footed by Francesc Fabregas,
Aaron Hughes manages to make a clearance.
57:20 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on William Gallas by Andrew Johnson. Direct free kick taken by Vito Mannone.
56:25 Andrey Arshavin takes a shot from deep inside the box clearing the bar.
55:13 Andrew Johnson takes a shot. Vito Mannone makes a save. Effort from inside the six-yard box by Clinton Dempsey goes wide right
of the goal.
54:33 Nicklas Bendtner takes a shot. Mark Schwarzer makes a save.
51:32 Assist by Francesc Fabregas.
51:32 GOAL - Robin van Persie:Fulham 0 - 1 Arsenal Robin van Persie scores a goal from inside the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Fulham 0-1 Arsenal.
49:26 Bobby Zamora takes a shot. Andrew Johnson gets a block in.
48:32 Andrey Arshavin takes a inswinging corner to the near post, Mark Schwarzer makes a save.
46:18 Shot from long distance by Bobby Zamora misses to the right of the target.
45:01 The referee gets the second half underway.
45:00+3:14 The referee blows for half time.
45:00+2:10 Corner taken by Francesc Fabregas played to the near post, clearance made by Bobby Zamora. Inswinging corner taken from the
left by-line by Francesc Fabregas, save by Mark Schwarzer.
45:00+1:23 Francesc Fabregas delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from left wing, save made by Mark Schwarzer.
45:00+1:23 Booking Booking for Bobby Zamora for unsporting behaviour.
45:00+1:20 Foul by Bobby Zamora on Gael Clichy, free kick awarded.
45:00+0:32 Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Danny Murphy, clearance made by Nicklas Bendtner.
43:49 The offside flag is raised against Bobby Zamora. Indirect free kick taken by Vito Mannone.
42:33 Nicklas Bendtner challenges Aaron Hughes unfairly and gives away a free kick. Mark Schwarzer restarts play with the free kick.
41:39 The ball is crossed by Zoltan Gera, Bobby Zamora has a headed effort at goal from close in which goes wide right of the target.
38:54 Francesc Fabregas is caught offside. Mark Schwarzer takes the free kick.
37:10 Unfair challenge on Paul Konchesky by Nicklas Bendtner results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Paul Konchesky.
36:20 Andrew Johnson is ruled offside. Vito Mannone restarts play with the free kick.
36:06 Paul Konchesky sends in a cross, save by Vito Mannone.
35:30 Zoltan Gera takes a shot. Vito Mannone makes a save. Corner taken by Paul Konchesky, clearance by Nicklas Bendtner.
34:36 Francesc Fabregas is penalised for handball and concedes a free kick. Brede Hangeland restarts play with the free kick.
33:44 Bobby Zamora is ruled offside. Free kick taken by Thomas Vermaelen.
33:44 The assistant referee flags for offside against Bobby Zamora. Vito Mannone takes the free kick.
33:11 Effort from a long way out by Danny Murphy goes wide right of the target.
31:08 Andrew Johnson challenges Thomas Vermaelen unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Vito Mannone.
30:20 The ball is crossed by Paul Konchesky, William Gallas makes a clearance.
28:10 Foul by Dickson Etuhu on Nicklas Bendtner, free kick awarded. Robin van Persie has an effort direct from the free kick.
27:44 John Pantsil concedes a free kick for a foul on Thomas Vermaelen. Andrey Arshavin takes the free kick.
27:17 Unfair challenge on Dickson Etuhu by Alexandre Song Billong results in a free kick. Aaron Hughes takes the direct free kick.
25:18 The free kick is swung in right-footed by Danny Murphy, Vassiriki Diaby makes a clearance. Zoltan Gera challenges Bacary Sagna
unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Vito Mannone.
25:18 Booking Danny Murphy receives a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.
24:54 Bobby Zamora fouled by Alexandre Song Billong, the ref awards a free kick.
24:27 Nicklas Bendtner has a drilled shot. Mark Schwarzer makes a save.
21:17 Shot from deep inside the area by Andrey Arshavin clears the bar.
20:24 Centre by Francesc Fabregas, Aaron Hughes makes a clearance.
19:57 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Francesc Fabregas from the left by-line to the near post, Bobby Zamora makes a clearance.
19:21 Centre by Bacary Sagna, clearance made by Brede Hangeland.
17:12 Shot on goal by Francesc Fabregas from just inside the area goes over the target.
14:42 Shot from 6 yards from Clinton Dempsey. Save made by Vito Mannone.
14:41 Shot by Clinton Dempsey from 6 yards. Save by Vito Mannone.
14:31 A cross is delivered by Zoltan Gera, Andrew Johnson takes a shot. Vito Mannone makes a brilliant save.
12:35 The ball is crossed by Andrey Arshavin, save by Mark Schwarzer.
10:01 Zoltan Gera produces a cross, save made by Vito Mannone.
9:09 Danny Murphy concedes a free kick for a foul on Vassiriki Diaby. Francesc Fabregas crosses the ball from the free kick right-footed
from left channel, save by Mark Schwarzer.
8:10 Substitution Damien Duff leaves the field to be replaced by Zoltan Gera.
3:40 Shot by Clinton Dempsey. Save made by Mark Schwarzer.
3:26 Andrew Johnson produces a cross, save by Vito Mannone.
2:55 The ball is crossed by Bobby Zamora.
0:53 Bacary Sagna delivers the ball, Thomas Vermaelen has a headed effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the left
of the target.
0:25 Unfair challenge on Andrey Arshavin by John Pantsil results in a free kick. Free kick crossed by Francesc Fabregas, John Pantsil
makes a clearance.
0:00 The ref blows the whistle to begin the match.
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