Bobby Zamora (centre) celebrates the Fulham opener
By Alistair Magowan
An impressive Bobby Zamora scored his sixth goal of the season to lift Fulham to eighth spot in the Premier League after they beat Sunderland.
Zamora also hit the bar before half-time and Erik Nevland should have scored too but he shot straight at Marton Fulop from a Zamora lay-off.
Mark Schwarzer saved Kenwyne Jones's shot when he intercepted a back pass and Darren Bent volleyed wide.
Fulham faded after the break, but held off a spirited Sunderland effort.
The result means Sunderland's woes away from home continue as they now have just one win from their last 18 league trips. Meanwhile, Fulham boss Roy Hodgson will be content his team held firm after their European exertions on Thursday.
Martina Navratilova joined Niall Quinn at Craven Cottage
On this display, Hodgson looks to be taking domestic issues more seriously than the Europa League with Clint Dempsey, Aaron Hughes and Damien Duff among those returning to the team after being rested for the midweek victory against CSKA Sofia.
It certainly added more impetus to the team's play and for long periods of the first half Fulham were the superior team.
But Sunderland, who have only picked up four points away all season, made more of the contest in the second period and had several good chances to equalise.
They certainly began with purpose when Black Cats captain Lorik Cana regained possession deep in the Fulham half to set up Steed Malbranque, but his shot was straight at Schwarzer.
Following that, though, they were given little chance to get into their stride as Fulham took the lead after seven minutes from a seemingly innocuous position.
Duff laid the ball back to John Pantsil on the right flank and his deep cross was nodded home by Zamora with the Black Cats defence caught napping.
Duff was deployed on the right of midfield with Hodgson perhaps looking to exploit Kieran Richardson who was filling in at left-back after George McCartney injured his hamstring in training on Friday.
Hodgson pleased after hard-fought win
That meant Dempsey started on the left but the American was eager to roam into the centre and twice found room to shoot from long range.
The visitors seemed happy to play themselves into the game with a spell of possession but their attacks lacked any real zeal. Conversely, every time Fulham broke they had more threat and they were keen to probe Richardson's flank, leading him to give the ball away one time too many.
Cutting in from the right, Duff lifted a chance high and wide but soon after Zamora came close to doubling his tally when again he threatened in the air, nodding Paul Konchesky's centre onto the crossbar.
The former West Ham striker had already impressed with some tasty skills before that chance and further proved he is adept on the deck when, after a free-kick, his lay-off for Nevland should have given Fulham a 2-0 lead at half-time.
The Norwegian, however, shot straight at Fulop from inside the penalty area and made things worse by putting the parry over the bar.
Perhaps having had a quiet word with his men at half-time, Steve Bruce saw his side energised after the break and the Fulham defence had to be alert when Bent's pull back looked dangerous.
The hosts continued to threaten but Konchesky almost gifted Sunderland an equaliser when his back pass was intercepted by Jones, who was back in the team after a three-match ban. Maybe lacking match sharpness, the Trinidadian's shot was smothered by Schwarzer.
Quiet up to the hour mark, Bent then began to give the Sunderland fans voice when his stinging volley was just off target from Richardson's cross. The Black Cats leading scorer then had another opportunity but he leant back while shooting to blast over.
Whereas the Sunderland left side was a weakness in the first half, Andy Reid and Richardson began to link up well in the second, Reid perhaps buoyed by the watching Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni.
Sunderland away form disappoints Bruce
The Italian would have noted that while the game was busier now it was also becoming increasingly scrappy.
Zoltan Gera, the scorer against CSKA Sofia in midweek, headed a chance wide from a left-wing cross.
At the other end, Sunderland substitute Bolo Zenden had a crisp shot that Schwarzer did well to get down and stop, but for all the visitors' efforts they failed to create many clear-cut chances they will live to rue.
Credit for that must go to the resolute Fulham defence who will be happy to finish a busy week on a high note.
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson on Bobby Zamora: "In the first half he was magnificent, in the second half he didn't get the service but he was a constant thorn in Sunderland's side.
"We didn't get the ball up to him in the second half but I thought his performance was good throughout and he was a major factor in the victory.
"They've got some dangerous front players, but I'm happy to say we got away with it and it gives us some solid foundations going into the Christmas period. I thought the back four was superb and Chris Baird did well in front of them."
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce: "Our away form could ruin our season. I've got to do something different because away from home we are too easy to play against. By that I mean changing personnel.
"If we had started the first half like we did the second we would have got something out of the game."
90:00+4:32 The referee blows his whistle to end the game.
90:00+3:11 Short corner taken by Damien Duff from the right by-line.
90:00+2:49 Short corner taken by Damien Duff.
90:00+2:07 Clinton Dempsey has a direct shot on goal from the free kick, Andy Reid gets a block in.
90:00+2:07 Booking Phillip Bardsley is shown a yellow card.
90:00+1:33 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Bobby Zamora by Phillip Bardsley.
90:00+1:04 Kagisho Dikgacoi fouled by Andy Reid, the ref awards a free kick. Mark Schwarzer takes the free kick.
90:00+0:16 Jordan Henderson decides to take the corner short.
89:41 Bobby Zamora is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Marton Fulop takes the free kick.
88:27 Inswinging corner taken by Andy Reid from the right by-line, save by Mark Schwarzer.
86:28 Boudewijn Zenden takes a shot. Save made by Mark Schwarzer.
85:05 Marton Fulop restarts play with the free kick.
85:05 Substitution Kagisho Dikgacoi comes on in place of Jonathan Greening.
85:05 The official flags Bobby Zamora offside.
83:21 Corner taken by Andy Reid from the right by-line, save by Mark Schwarzer.
82:53 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Andy Reid played to the near post, Zoltan Gera manages to make a clearance.
81:41 The assistant referee flags for offside against Fraizer Campbell. Indirect free kick taken by Mark Schwarzer.
80:37 Darren Bent takes a shot. Jonathan Greening gets a block in.
79:47 Foul by Chris Baird on Darren Bent, free kick awarded. Andy Reid restarts play with the free kick.
76:43 Zoltan Gera sends in a cross, clearance made by Nyron Nosworthy.
74:39 Nyron Nosworthy concedes a free kick for a foul on Bobby Zamora. Jonathan Greening restarts play with the free kick.
73:40 Clinton Dempsey fouled by Nyron Nosworthy, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Brede Hangeland.
72:48 Lorik Cana takes the free kick.
72:48 Substitution (Sunderland) makes a substitution, with Boudewijn Zenden coming on for Kenwyne Jones.
72:48 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Kenwyne Jones by Jonathan Greening.
71:30 The ball is swung over by Paul Konchesky, Headed effort from deep inside the penalty area by Zoltan Gera misses to the left
of the goal.
70:45 Unfair challenge on Clinton Dempsey by Phillip Bardsley results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Brede Hangeland.
69:21 Substitution Fraizer Campbell joins the action as a substitute, replacing Steed Malbranque.
67:38 Centre by John Pantsil, save by Marton Fulop.
66:43 Substitution Erik Nevland goes off and Zoltan Gera comes on.
66:36 Andy Reid delivers the ball, save by Mark Schwarzer.
63:36 A cross is delivered by Phillip Bardsley, John Pantsil manages to make a clearance.
63:19 The ball is crossed by Kieran Richardson, Brede Hangeland makes a clearance.
61:56 Erik Nevland produces a right-footed shot from just outside the area that goes harmlessly over the target.
60:06 Centre by Bobby Zamora.
58:47 Effort on goal by Darren Bent from just inside the penalty area goes harmlessly over the target.
58:16 Kieran Richardson produces a cross, Paul Konchesky manages to make a clearance.
56:59 Kieran Richardson produces a cross, Darren Bent has an effort at goal from the edge of the box that misses to the right of
56:30 Phillip Bardsley sends in a cross, save made by Mark Schwarzer.
55:25 Kenwyne Jones takes a shot. Save by Mark Schwarzer.
54:22 A cross is delivered by Steed Malbranque.
53:09 The ball is crossed by Paul Konchesky, Marton Fulop makes a save.
51:21 Phillip Bardsley fouled by Chris Baird, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Lorik Cana.
50:41 Clinton Dempsey produces a left-footed shot from just outside the box that misses to the right of the target.
48:53 The ball is crossed by Paul Konchesky.
47:27 Chris Baird gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Steed Malbranque. Lorik Cana takes the direct free kick.
46:26 The ball is delivered by John Pantsil, save by Marton Fulop.
45:41 Kieran Richardson delivers the ball, save by Mark Schwarzer.
45:25 The ball is swung over by Darren Bent, clearance made by Aaron Hughes.
45:01 The second half kicks off.
45:00+2:13 The whistle is blown to end the first half.
45:00+1:37 Michael Turner challenges Brede Hangeland unfairly and gives away a free kick. Mark Schwarzer takes the direct free kick.
45:00+1:21 Chris Baird challenges Andy Reid unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Andy Reid.
45:00 Corner taken left-footed by Kieran Richardson, Brede Hangeland manages to make a clearance. Corner taken by Kieran Richardson,
Steed Malbranque takes a shot. Mark Schwarzer makes a save.
42:46 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Bobby Zamora by Nyron Nosworthy. Strike on goal comes in from Clinton Dempsey
from the free kick. Erik Nevland takes a shot. Save by Marton Fulop. Shot from deep inside the area by Erik Nevland clears
41:48 Paul Konchesky delivers the ball, Bobby Zamora takes a shot.
41:10 Foul by Lorik Cana on Bobby Zamora, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Aaron Hughes.
39:54 The official flags Jordan Henderson offside. Mark Schwarzer takes the free kick.
39:12 The assistant referee signals for offside against Darren Bent. Free kick taken by Mark Schwarzer.
37:13 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Jonathan Greening played to the near post.
36:39 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Damien Duff from the right by-line to the near post, clearance by Nyron Nosworthy.
34:47 Jonathan Greening challenges Kenwyne Jones unfairly and gives away a free kick. The free kick is delivered left-footed by
Andy Reid from right wing, save made by Mark Schwarzer. Long range shot from Kieran Richardson misses to the left of the target.
32:50 Shot from just outside the box by Damien Duff goes over the target.
32:10 Andy Reid takes a inswinging corner from the right by-line to the near post, save by Mark Schwarzer.
30:00 Foul by Nyron Nosworthy on Bobby Zamora, free kick awarded. Clinton Dempsey has a direct shot on goal from the free kick.
29:17 Substitution Nyron Nosworthy on for Anton Ferdinand.
27:28 Shot by Clinton Dempsey from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the goal.
26:07 Free kick taken by Marton Fulop.
26:07 Booking The referee cautions Erik Nevland for unsporting behaviour.
25:50 Anton Ferdinand fouled by Erik Nevland, the ref awards a free kick.
25:14 Unfair challenge on Chris Baird by Kenwyne Jones results in a free kick. Aaron Hughes restarts play with the free kick.
24:44 Erik Nevland produces a right-footed shot from outside the penalty box and misses right.
23:59 Erik Nevland is penalised for a handball. Free kick taken by Marton Fulop.
19:09 Unfair challenge on Lorik Cana by Bobby Zamora results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Anton Ferdinand.
18:33 Andy Reid sends in a cross.
16:05 Long range shot by Clinton Dempsey goes wide right of the target.
14:05 A cross is delivered by Phillip Bardsley, clearance made by Aaron Hughes. Corner taken left-footed by Andy Reid from the right
by-line to the near post, Erik Nevland manages to make a clearance.
12:31 Unfair challenge on Lorik Cana by Damien Duff results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Kieran Richardson.
11:06 Damien Duff restarts play with the free kick.
11:06 Booking Kieran Richardson booked.
10:57 Damien Duff fouled by Kieran Richardson, the ref awards a free kick.
10:29 A cross is delivered by Andy Reid, save made by Mark Schwarzer.
6:22 Assist on the goal came from John Pantsil.
6:22 GOAL - Bobby Zamora:Fulham 1 - 0 Sunderland Bobby Zamora fires in a goal from inside the penalty box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Fulham 1-0 Sunderland.
6:09 Erik Nevland takes a shot. Blocked by Anton Ferdinand.
4:15 The ball is delivered by Paul Konchesky, Kieran Richardson makes a clearance.
3:10 Steed Malbranque takes a shot. Mark Schwarzer makes a save.
2:20 Clinton Dempsey has an effort at goal from outside the area missing to the wide left of the goal.
1:02 Kieran Richardson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Aaron Hughes. Mark Schwarzer takes the direct free kick.
0:00 The referee gets the match started.
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