Cardiff City 3 Fulham 1
Fulham’s relegation fears deepened as a Steven Caulker double and a Sacha Riether own goal condemned them to another dispiriting defeat.
Caulker put fellow strugglers Cardiff ahead in the final seconds of a poor first half as he tapped home Craig Noone’s cross.
Fulham’s improved performance early in the second half was rewarded with an equaliser when Lewis Holtby finished from close range.
But parity lasted just eight minutes as Caulker headed in, while a Maarten Stekelenburg save rebounded in off the unlucky Riether to compound Fulham’s misery.
The Whites have now only picked up two points from a possible 27 and are four adrift of safety having played a game more than many of their rivals.
This match had been billed as a must-win for both sides but you wouldn’t have known it given the lack of real quality in the first half.
Cardiff’s wide men were prominent in short bursts, with Frazier Campbell producing a save from Stekelenburg and Craig Noone screwing a shot wide.
At the other end, Fulham were fielding a brand new strikeforce, with £11m signing Kostas Mitroglou, on his first start for the Whites, surprisingly paired with teenage debutant Cauley Woodrow.
But they failed to make an impact in the first half and Cardiff threatened again late on when Kenwyne Jones’s firm shot was turned behind by Stekelenburg.
But just when it looked as though Fulham would go in level at the break, Cardiff found the breakthrough.
After a corner was not properly cleared, Noone drilled the ball across the face of goal and Caulker steered it home from close range.
There was a vast improvement to the tempo and goalmouth action early in the second half.
Holtby’s half volley was kept out by a fine save from Marshall while Jones should have doubled Cardiff’s lead but he headed wide when unmarked at the far post.
Instead of being 2-0 behind, Fulham found themselves on level terms just before the hour mark as a Giorgos Karagounis corner was flicked on by John Heitinga and Holtby tapped in for his first Whites goal.
But it was not the platform Fulham were hoping for and eight minutes later Cardiff had restored their lead.
Jordon Mutch’s delivery into the box was met by a downward header from Caulker, which Stekelenburg contrived to dive underneath.
The killer third goal arrived shortly afterwards in a cruel fashion as Stekelenburg kept out Mutch’s header but it hit Riether and rebounded into the net.
Mitroglou almost pulled one back but his half volley was brilliantly turned away by Marshall and with it went any chance of Fulham getting back into the game.
Fulham (4-4-2):Stekelenburg; Riether, Heitinga, Hangeland, Richardson; Dejagah (Karagounis 49), Sidwell, Holtby, Riise (Kacaniklic 46); Woodrow (Bent 75), Mitroglou.
Subs not used: Stockdale, Zverotic, Burn, Kvist.