Goals from Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele gave Fulham the points at Deepdale despite Marnick Vermijl’s second half strike.
McCormack gave the Cottagers an early lead, but Vermijl equalised just after the hour mark after the Lilywhites has lost both Tom Clarke and Calum Woods through injury before the 25 minute mark, but Dembele grabbed the win by finishing from close range after McCormack had seen a free kick brilliantly saved by Anders Lindegaard.
An unchanged North End started brightly and almost went ahead only 150 second in when Joe
Garner flicked a back header goalwards from Paul Gallagher’s free kick, forcing a great save by Marcus Bettinelli for the game’s first corner.
But despite the bright opening they went behind two minutes later as Ross McCormack raced through from the half way onto a long ball from Michael Madl, rode a tackle from Bailey Wright, rounded Lindegaard and slotted into the empty net.
The lead was almost chalked off within a couple of minutes as Madl was needed to head off the line from Jordan Hugill’s hooked effort after Bettinelli failed to claim Ben Pearson’s cross into the box from the right.
North End suffered two further early blows as skipper Tom Clarke clashed heads with team-mate Calum Woods and was taken off with Paul Huntington replacing him at the heart of the defence, Paul Gallagher taking the captaincy and then just before the mid-point of the half Calum Woods also had to leave the field, Marnick Vermijl replacing him.
Sandwiching the two substitutions there was a massive shout for handball in the Fulham box by Scott Parker, all the PNE players went up in unison, but referee Scott Duncan gave a corner, not the only time this would happen in the half as just before the half hour mark there was another huge shout for a penalty as Madl brought down Hugill in the box as he raced clear, but again the referee pointed for a corner and not the spot.
Five minutes before the interval Alan Browne put a ball in from left hand side to Joe Garner at the back post, but Bettinelli brilliantly smothered at the near post five yards out, denying the front man his 50th PNE goal.
Then three minutes into five added on for first half stoppages Garner powerfully headed over Gallagher’s corner onto the roof of the net from 15 yards out, with Bettinelli again beaten.
McCormack had a chance to make it two in the early stages of the second half, collecting Parker’s through ball, but Lindegaard made a fine and strong save to push the ball over the bar.
But it was level 18 minutes into the second half. Alan Browne lost the ball, but the deflection took it into the path of Marnick Vermijl who beat two men and drove in a shot through the legs of Bettinelli into the bottom right hand corner.
However, the Cottagers went back ahead with 16 minutes left. A McCormack free kick was brilliantly saved by Anders Lindegaard, palming the ball out at full stretch, but Dembele fired into the ground and it bounced up and in from close range.
Substitute Jermaine Beckford had the ball in the net only for a close offside flag to be given and then he couldn’t get the power on an effort at the back post from Alan Browne’s cross in from the right.
The experienced Fulham players were doing everything to waste time and try and kill the game and Beckford was denied another strong penalty shout after Stearman appeared to bring him down in the box with five minutes left.
Seven minutes of stoppage time was signalled by the fourth official and no less than it should have been after all the time wasting!
In the sixth minute a Vermijl long ball found its way through to Jermaine Beckford in the six yard box, but he couldn’t direct the ball home and the visitors held on to collect the points.
PNE line-up: Lindegaard, Woods (Vermijl, 22), Reach, Clarke (c) (Huntington, 11), Wright, Cunningham, Pearson, Gallagher, Browne, Garner, Hugill (Beckford, 67). Subs not used: Kirkland, Johnson, Doyle, Robinson.
Fulham line-up: Bettinelli, Fredericks, Parker (c), Cairney (O’Hara, 58), Ream (Stearman ,46), Madl (Burn, 90), Tunnicliffe, Dembele, Ince, McCormack, Amorebieta. Subs not used: Lonergan, Garbutt, Smith, Baird.
Attendance: 10,358 (389 away fans)
Referee: Mr S Duncan