Bentley, left, marked a surprise return to first-team action with Spurs' second
By Sam Lyon
Tottenham reignited their push for a top-four spot with a clinical victory over Fulham at White Hart Lane.
The hosts, searching for a first league win since December, took the lead when Peter Crouch capitalised on some poor defending to clip in from close range.
And David Bentley made the most of a rare Tottenham start when his free-kick was deflected home on the hour mark.
The Cottagers offered little in attack, though Bobby Zamora brought a brave save out of Heurelho Gomes early on.
However, the victory was all too comfortable for a Tottenham side that rarely had to get out of third gear as the hosts kept hold of fourth spot in the league, three points ahead of Liverpool, who were held to a goalless draw by Wolves.
Fulham injuries concern Hodgson
It was a far from fluent victory for Spurs, though, who have lost an element of attacking swagger of late with winger Aaron Lennon injured.
But they had far too much for a Fulham side whose performances away from Craven Cottage could hardly be more of a contrast with their impressive home form.
With just one league win on their travels all season, Fulham's gameplan was clearly to keep things tight early on - and they were grateful to Mark Schwarzer's smart low stop from Tom Huddlestone's drive in the first minute amid a typically sharp start from the hosts.
Huddlestone and Defoe also kept Schwarzer busy during the opening salvos, but as has happened more than once recently, Spurs' early vigour in attack slowly diminished as Fulham took a foothold in the game.
Not that the visitors were offering much in attack, with a fantastic chance for Zamora in the 13th minute the sole exception.
Zoltan Gera was the creator, his flick from Damien Duff's cross looking to have found Zamora six yards out, only for Gomes - who injured his shoulder in the process - to save bravely at the striker's feet.
It was a missed chance Fulham were left to rue as Spurs took the lead on 28 minutes - thanks in no small part to some dire defending.
First Schwarzer flapped at Bentley's cross, then Bjorn Helge Riise failed to clear the ball, allowing Modric to rescue it and cross for Crouch, who nipped in front of the sleeping Chris Smalling to poke in.
Smalling, making only his second Premier League start, was featuring just hours after it was announced he will be joining Manchester United next season - and the 20-year-old might have wished he had not made the headlines as his naivety was punished mercilessly.
The irrepressible Modric almost made it two on the stroke of half-time when he stepped inside Aaron Hughes and curled inches over the bar, but the home fans did not have to wait too long for a deserved second.
Bentley has future at Spurs - Redknapp
Bentley, making his first league start since October, got it, his curling free-kick deflecting off Riise and past the helpless Schwarzer.
And that was pretty much that as far as the competitive edge in the match was concerned, with Tottenham happy to move the ball around comfortably and injury-ravaged Fulham apparently just happy to keep the score down.
It will do nothing to take away from what was a red-letter day for Gareth Bale, though, who - at the 23rd time of asking - secured his first ever victory as a Premier League starter.
As for Fulham, a fourth straight defeat for the first time since 2006 does little to improve their hopes of securing European football for a second successive season, though with two home matches to come they will hope to return to winning ways sooner rather than later.
Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp: "The main thing was for us to get the win. We have been playing well recently but have come up against a couple of keepers who have been in great form.
"We well deserved to win it tonight. We dominated the game and our keeper has maybe had one save to make all night.
"I'm pleased with David Bentley's performance, he's got great ability and he showed that tonight. He's been unlucky not to have had more chances because of Aaron Lennon's form but all we can ask is that when he gets his chance he takes it and he did that tonight."
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson: "I thought we dealt with Spurs reasonably well. After their initial burst I thought we did OK.
"We were a little unlucky with the goals, the second one in particular because that was a cruel deflection.
"After that second goal they could relax - if we hadn't conceded that, maybe we could have pressed them a bit more."
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