Bale's goal was his 11th of an excellent season so far for the winger
By Phil Dawkes
Gareth Bale's 11th goal of the season gave Tottenham victory over struggling Fulham to lift the north Londoners into the Champions League places.
Bale rose to head Rafael van der Vaart's free-kick past Mark Schwarzer at the end of a drab first half.
Spurs were indebted to Michael Dawson for a goal-line clearance following an Andy Johnson shot to preserve the lead.
It was the closest Fulham came to a goal and defeat leaves them in the bottom three, a point above Wolves.
The Tottenham hierarchy is likely to play it down, but an unbeaten run that now stretches to eight games can only fuel suggestions they are well-armed for a title push this year.
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If the sign of a championship-challenging side is that they win when not playing well then, on this evidence, Harry Redknapp's side will be near the top of the table in May.
The home side were far from their best at White Hart Lane, particularly in a first half that saw a dearth of goal-bound efforts and a strong containing effort from Fulham.
However, the win was Spurs', lifting them into the top four at Chelsea's expense. And, for the first time in three victorious matches, they managed to finish with all 11 men on the pitch.
Fulham have a right to feel somewhat aggrieved that they take nothing away from an encounter in which they showed the same resilience and commitment that earned them their first away win in 27 attempts, at Stoke last Tuesday.
But for all the threatening potential the Cottagers demonstrated on the counter-attack, they lacked a killer punch in the final third and it cost them.
Their winless run away from home against London clubs now extends to 34 matches.
Bale's goal was the only highlight of a first half in which Tottenham's Luka Modric was lively and central midfield partner Van der Vaart flattered to deceive, while lone Fulham front-man Johnson moved well but was denied shooting opportunities.
When the first meaningful effort came in the 20th minute, Fulham's Dempsey pulled wide from the edge of the penalty area.
The first home effort came 10 minutes later, Benoit Assou-Ekotto drawing a save from Schwarzer with a 35-yard drive.
But with three minutes until half-time, Bale broke the deadlock, cleverly directing a 12-yard header from Van der Vaart's central free-kick past the wrong-footed Schwarzer.
The goal was the Welsh winger's 11th of what has been a superb season thus far and he has doubled his career total in the first half of this campaign.
Spurs began the second 45 minutes in cruise control but a single-goal advantage is always fragile and Fulham almost exploited that during a five-minute spell midway through the half.
Hughes blames bad luck for poor season
After some concerted pressure, Andy Johnson found space in the penalty area to fire goalwards from an angle eight yards out.
Heurelho Gomez could only palm the shot across goal but before the onrushing Dempsey could capitalise, Dawson scrambled the ball to safety.
Bale could have made it a far more comfortable last quarter of an hour for the home side but for once he misjudged matters, blazing over from 12 yards following a cut-back from substitute Vedran Corluka.
Similarly, with five minutes to go, Aaron Lennon ran from his own half and jinked his way into a shooting opportunity in the Fulham box, but he fired his effort over when perhaps a pass to well-placed substitute Jermaine Jenas would have been a better option.
Spurs were left hanging on as Fulham pressed for a late equaliser but they were able to resist the Cottagers' best efforts.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp:
"It was a tough game and credit to Fulham, they played very well and put us under pressure. You could see an equaliser coming. But there are no easy games.
"We looked like one of two were running on empty. We played with 10 men Sunday and Tuesday but nine points from the week is fantastic.
"Any team that achieves something don't play well every week but they win."
Fulham manager Mark Hughes:
"Today I thought we did okay and took the game to Spurs. We were solid and they created few chances.
"In the second half we took the game to one of the most in form clubs in the Premier League. We tested them and that will give us great belief.
"You need luck and we needed to take one of those chances. But that has been the story of the season so far."
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