Chelsea bounced back from their League Cup let-down with a narrow win over their West London neighbours.
Yet again young Cole Palmer made the difference for the Blues, converting a penalty in first-half stoppage time after his fine pass to Raheem Sterling had tempted Fulham’s Issa Diop into a rash challenge.
The Cottagers could have no complaints about the spot-kick or the defeat after a flat display following their own Carabao Cup defeat at Liverpool.
But boss Marco Silva was annoyed that VAR did not intervene to upgrade Malo Gusto’s yellow card to a red after his nasty foul on Willian a few minutes before the goal.
Chelsea’s loss at Championship side Middlesbrough was threatening to send the club into another mini-crisis. But Palmer’s moment of inspiration and ice-cold composure postponed that, for 10 days at least.
It was a game that did little to discourage the theory that this is not one of the world’s great football rivalries. Until added time at the end of the first half, there was very little to get excited about.
Chelsea enjoyed most of the possession and territory but only had a Conor Gallagher shot over the bar, and an Armando Broja header wide, to show for it. In fact, before the opening goal, a disappointing Fulham side had had the best chance.
Antonee Robinson’s cross reached Harry Wilson at the back post, but Blues goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic kept out the shot. A poor 47 minutes was about to end deservedly goalless when Palmer intervened.
His reverse pass to Raheem Sterling was the highest quality bit of play so far. Issa Diop’s challenge was not. Down went Sterling and up stepped Palmer to stroke home the penalty with the calmness that is already becoming his trademark.