Mamady Sidibe's strike on his 150th Stoke City appearance proved the winner
By Sam Lyon
Stoke were forced to hold off a late Fulham rally to secure a first league win in six games in a topsy-turvy match in snowy conditions at the Britannia.
Some dire defending allowed Stoke to go into the break three goals up, Tuncay kick-starting it with a neat header.
Abdoulaye Faye then slid in from close range and Mamady Sidibe half-volleyed the third with the Potters comfortable.
Damien Duff's deflected shot and Clint Dempsey's dipping long-ranger led to a nervy finale, but Stoke just held on.
It was a tense finish to an entertaining match, but home manager Tony Pulis might wonder how his side were forced to hang on in the closing stages having dominated for so long against a lacklustre Fulham outfit.
It was an impassioned display from Stoke, and one that provides a big fillip in their battle to retain top flight status this season.
However, their failure to put Fulham out of sight having dominated the opening hour only allowed the Londoners to produce a late fightback that almost denied the Potters a potentially vital win.
For Roy Hodgson's men, they need look no further than a woeful first-half defensive display when looking for answers as to how they failed to secure an away victory for the ninth straight league match.
The Cottagers' recent push up the league has been built on particularly solid foundations, and with star centre-half Brede Hangeland back in the side after a knee injury, their's looked a solid backline at kick-off.
Instead, time and again the Cottagers defence went missing in the bitterly cold conditions as Stoke belied their recent slump in form with an effervescent display.
Etherington was the key. He had already had a neat finish ruled out - correctly - for offside when his corner was headed goalwards by Robert Huth and turned in at the far post by Tuncay.
A needless foul on Liam Lawrence by Paul Konchesky then afforded him another opportunity to swing in a dangerous set-piece and, with the Fulham defence completely static, Faye slid home from all of two yards completely unmarked.
And Etherington completed a hat-trick of assists two minutes later when his cross was flicked on by Danny Higginbotham for Sidibe to mark his 150th Potters appearance with a half volley into the ground and up into the top corner.
It could even have been worse for Fulham and had Damien Duff not pulled off a double goalline clearance from Ricardo Fuller and then Huth, one could have forgiven the Londoners for staying in the warmth of the dressing room rather than emerge for the second half after the break.
Amidst the defensive carnage, Fulham did create a couple of half chances - Danny Murphy drifting a free-kick inches wide and form man Bobby Zamora forcing a smart block from Higginbotham inside the box early on.
But it was a truly half-hearted display from the in-form Cottagers, and when Hangeland (knee) and Zamora (suspected dislocated shoulder) had to be withdrawn before the hour mark, the visitors' cause looked a lost one.
Duff provided hope that wasn't going to be the case with half an hour remaining, though, collecting substitute Dempsey's pass and driving into the roof of the net via a deflection from 20 yards out.
And had Dempsey himself finished more accurately having collected Murphy's pass over the top minutes later, Stoke's resolve might have been tested a lot sooner as Fulham finally displayed some measure of fight.
As it was, the Potters regained their composure in the final quarter, and Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer was fortunate to beat away a Ricardo Fuller shot at his near post after it had taken a deflection.
Still, when Dempsey fired Fulham's second from nothing - a dipping volley from 25 yards that gave home keeper Steve Simonsen little chance - all of a sudden the Potters were forced to dig in for the first time in the match.
It was all too little, too late from Fulham, though, and City deservedly held on for the victory that moves them to within three points and a place off the Londoners in the Premier League table.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis: "We've played better than today and not got a result.
"But the longer you go without a win, you get nervous and very uptight.
"We like the Britannia Stadium to be a bit of a fortress, so to win again at home will give the lads confidence."
"Matty (Etherington) has played as well for us this year as I've ever seen anyone play.
"He's that good for us. When he's on song, whether he's scoring goals or creating them, he's a top, top player."
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson: "We were determined to give a better performance in the second half - and I think we did.
"In the second half, we showed we are a good football team, but unfortunately there aren't many teams that come back from three down in 45 minutes.
"We certainly gave it a good shot and I'm pleased we can take some credit from the game."
90:00+5:38 The game is over, as the referee blows his whistle.
90:00+5:33 Matthew Etherington decides to take a short corner.
90:00+4:29 Stephen Kelly gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Dean Whitehead. Danny Higginbotham takes the direct free kick.
90:00+2:53 Chris Smalling takes a shot from 30 yards. Ryan Shawcross gets a block in. Corner taken by Damien Duff from the left by-line,
Matthew Etherington manages to make a clearance.
90:00+1:51 Shot by Ricardo Fuller from 30 yards. Save made by Mark Schwarzer.
90:00+1:03 Damien Duff has an effort at goal. Blocked by Danny Higginbotham. Danny Murphy takes a inswinging corner to the near post,
Ryan Shawcross manages to make a clearance.
89:59 Clinton Dempsey takes a shot from 30 yards. Comfortable save by Steve Simonsen.
88:33 Substitution Salif Diao comes on in place of Liam Lawrence.
88:33 The official flags Mamady Sidibe offside. Free kick taken by Mark Schwarzer.
87:00 Effort on goal by Erik Nevland from 18 yards. Blocked by Glenn Whelan. Corner from the left by-line taken by Damien Duff,
clearance by Ryan Shawcross.
86:39 Glenn Whelan challenges Damien Duff unfairly and gives away a free kick. Chris Smalling takes the free kick.
85:50 Corner taken by Matthew Etherington, Abdoulaye Faye has a headed effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the left
of the target.
84:50 Assist on the goal came from Erik Nevland.
84:50 GOAL - Clinton Dempsey:Stoke 3 - 2 Fulham Clinton Dempsey grabs a goal from outside the penalty area high into the middle of the goal. Stoke 3-2 Fulham.
81:33 Substitution (Fulham) makes a substitution, with Erik Nevland coming on for Andrew Johnson.
81:33 Foul by Clinton Dempsey on Abdoulaye Faye, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Glenn Whelan.
81:10 Foul by Zoltan Gera on Liam Lawrence, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Robert Huth.
80:02 The official flags Andrew Johnson offside. Steve Simonsen restarts play with the free kick.
73:49 Ricardo Fuller takes a shot from 18 yards. Mark Schwarzer gets a block in. Matthew Etherington takes a corner.
73:29 Free kick awarded for a foul by Chris Baird on Mamady Sidibe. Liam Lawrence restarts play with the free kick.
71:13 Danny Murphy fouled by Liam Lawrence, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Chris Baird.
69:13 Clinton Dempsey produces a left-footed shot from just outside the penalty box that misses to the left of the goal.
68:15 Inswinging corner taken by Liam Lawrence from the left by-line, clearance made by Chris Baird.
67:19 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Danny Murphy by Dean Whitehead. Aaron Hughes takes the direct free kick.
65:04 Substitution Glenn Whelan on for Rory Delap.
64:03 Ricardo Fuller is caught offside. Mark Schwarzer restarts play with the free kick.
63:43 The ball is crossed by Liam Lawrence, save by Mark Schwarzer.
62:24 Clinton Dempsey takes a shot. Save made by Steve Simonsen.
60:48 Assist on the goal came from Clinton Dempsey.
60:48 GOAL - Damien Duff:Stoke 3 - 1 Fulham Damien Duff finds the net with a goal from outside the box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Stoke 3-1 Fulham.
60:12 Mamady Sidibe is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Indirect free kick taken by Mark Schwarzer.
59:08 Danny Murphy has an effort at goal from outside the penalty box which goes wide right of the target.
58:39 Damien Duff takes the inswinging corner, Ryan Shawcross manages to make a clearance.
55:04 Unfair challenge on Paul Konchesky by Ricardo Fuller results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Mark Schwarzer.
52:12 Effort from just outside the box by Damien Duff goes over the bar.
52:12 Substitution (Fulham) makes a substitution, with Clinton Dempsey coming on for Bobby Zamora.
52:12 Booking Abdoulaye Faye receives a yellow card.
51:51 Foul by Abdoulaye Faye on Bobby Zamora, free kick awarded.
51:21 Shot from outside the box by Bobby Zamora goes wide right of the target.
50:26 Damien Duff takes the outswinging corner, Abdoulaye Faye makes a clearance.
45:01 The second half has started.
45:00+3:20 The match has reached half-time.
45:00+3:14 Substitution Brede Hangeland leaves the field to be replaced by Chris Smalling.
45:00+2:21 Ricardo Fuller takes a shot. Blocked by Mark Schwarzer. Corner taken by Liam Lawrence from the left by-line to the near post,
Mamady Sidibe produces a header from close range which goes wide of the left-hand post.
45:00+1:14 Bobby Zamora fouled by Abdoulaye Faye, the ref awards a free kick. The free kick is delivered left-footed by Damien Duff from
right wing, save by Steve Simonsen.
45:00+0:54 Free kick awarded for a foul by Danny Higginbotham on Aaron Hughes. Direct free kick taken by Aaron Hughes.
Correction - 44:57 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Matthew Etherington from the right by-line to the near post, Ricardo Fuller takes a
shot. Paul Konchesky makes a clearance. Danny Higginbotham takes a shot. Blocked by Stephen Kelly.
44:57 Corner taken by Matthew Etherington from the right by-line played to the near post, Ricardo Fuller takes a shot. Paul Konchesky
makes a clearance.
44:04 The ball is crossed by Rory Delap.
42:58 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Liam Lawrence, Chris Baird manages to make a clearance.
42:11 Matthew Etherington gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Damien Duff. Danny Murphy restarts play with the free
41:19 Substitution Ricardo Fuller is brought on as a substitute for Tuncay Sanli.
Correction - 36:38 Assist on the goal came from Danny Higginbotham.
36:38 Rory Delap provided the assist for the goal.
36:38 GOAL - Mamady Sidibe:Stoke 3 - 0 Fulham Goal scored by Mamady Sidibe from deep inside the penalty area to the top right corner of the goal. Stoke 3-0 Fulham.
34:55 Damien Duff challenges Tuncay Sanli unfairly and gives away a free kick. Dean Whitehead restarts play with the free kick.
34:23 Damien Duff takes a inswinging corner from the right by-line played to the near post, clearance by Mamady Sidibe.
33:03 Assist on the goal came from Matthew Etherington.
33:03 GOAL - Abdoulaye Faye:Stoke 2 - 0 Fulham Abdoulaye Faye finds the back of the net with a goal from close in to the bottom left corner of the goal. Stoke 2-0 Fulham.
32:19 Liam Lawrence fouled by Paul Konchesky, the ref awards a free kick. Matthew Etherington produces a cross,
29:30 Corner taken left-footed by Damien Duff from the right by-line, Rory Delap makes a clearance.
25:15 Free kick awarded for a foul by Andrew Johnson on Tuncay Sanli. Free kick taken by Liam Lawrence.
23:30 Mamady Sidibe gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Damien Duff. Direct free kick taken by Aaron Hughes.
21:24 Zoltan Gera is penalised for handball and concedes a free kick. Steve Simonsen takes the free kick.
19:44 Foul by Abdoulaye Faye on Andrew Johnson, free kick awarded. Damien Duff delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed
from right channel, clearance by Danny Higginbotham. Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Damien Duff, clearance
by Rory Delap.
16:41 Outswinging corner taken by Damien Duff, Headed effort from inside the area by Zoltan Gera misses to the left of the goal.
15:33 Bobby Zamora has an effort at goal from 25 yards. Blocked by Abdoulaye Faye.
14:57 Volleyed right-footed shot by Mamady Sidibe. Comfortable save by Mark Schwarzer.
13:41 Free kick awarded for a foul by Ryan Shawcross on Bobby Zamora. Direct free kick taken by Chris Baird.
Correction - 12:00 Robert Huth provided the assist for the goal.
12:00 Matthew Etherington provided the assist for the goal.
12:00 GOAL - Tuncay Sanli:Stoke 1 - 0 Fulham Tuncay Sanli scores a headed goal from close range. Stoke 1-0 Fulham.
Correction - 11:19 Corner taken left-footed by Matthew Etherington,
11:19 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Matthew Etherington from the right by-line,
9:00 Abdoulaye Faye gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Bobby Zamora. Shot comes in from Danny Murphy from the free
7:35 Ryan Shawcross challenges Andrew Johnson unfairly and gives away a free kick. Chris Baird restarts play with the free kick.
6:22 Corner taken left-footed by Damien Duff from the left by-line to the near post, Rory Delap makes a clearance.
2:27 The assistant referee flags for offside against Mamady Sidibe. Mark Schwarzer takes the free kick.
0:53 Paul Konchesky is penalised for a handball. Ryan Shawcross restarts play with the free kick.
0:00 The ref blows the whistle to start the match.
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