PNE 1 Fulham 2
A fortunate Sone Aluko capitalised on a ricocheted ball in the box to head home and give the visitors the lead just after the half hour mark and then Matt Smith grabbed a second midway through the second half, firing home at the second attempt.
However, a goal back from substitute Callum Robinson gave the Lilywhites hope and in the closing minutes they thought they had got the equaliser when they had the ball in the back of the net through fellow sub Jermaine Beckford, only for the linesman to rule the goal out for offside; replays showing the frontman was onside, but the Cottagers held on.
The goal from the former Hull man was the only real action of the opening period; Tom Cairney initially taking a corner from the left hand side in front of his own fans that Anders Lindegaard punched clear, only for a clearance to ricochet into the six yard box and Aluko was able to head home from close range.
In first half injury time the Cottagers had the ball in the net again, but this time there was an obvious a foul on Lindegaard that referee James Adcock spotted.
The Lilywhites were the side who were on top from the opening stages of the second half; a Joe Garner shot blocked after a cross from Daniel Johnson was headed down by skipper Tom Clarke in the opening minute.
Like the visitors, North End were denied a goal on 49 minutes a Eoin Doyle nodded the ball into the net after great build up play by Alan Browne, but his fellow Irishman was clearly offside.
It was one way in the opening stages of the half as Browne danced brilliantly past three men, feeding Gallagher, who could cross from the left, Garner volleyed on target but it was blocked, with shouts for a penalty for handball falling on deaf ears.
The visitors’ first chance of the second half came just after the hour mark when Scott Malone laid in Floyd Ayite on the left, only for Anders Lindegaard to make a fine save with a strong right hand.
But it was 2-0 on 67 minutes as Fuham counter-attacked on the Lilyhwhites as Tom Cairney raced through and rode three tackles and laid the ball into Matt Smith. The big striker’s first shot was well saved by Lindegaard, but it went straight back to the No.9 who fired past the Dane.
The Lilywhites were back within a goal of their opponents four minutes later. In the aftermath of the second goal Simon Grayson had made two changes, brining on Jermaine Beckford and Callum Robinson and they combined for the goal.
Beckford ran in behind the Fulham defence down the right and put over an excellent cross to the back post and Robinson flew in and powered a diving header into the top left hand corner.
Lindegaard was needed again to deny Scott Parker as the game entered the final 14 minutes, after the striker had picked up Aluko’s ball from a well-worked move by Slavisa Jokanovic’s men.
North End thought they were level with three minutes left as Jermaine Beckford headed home from close range from Tom Clarke’s header across goal – replays showing he was onside and the visitors held on for the points.
PNE line-up: Lindegaard, Grimshaw (Humphrey, 82), Cunningham, Browne, Clarke (c), Wright, Pringle (Robinson, 67), Johnson, Garner, Doyle (Beckford, 67), Gallagher. Subs not used: Maxwell, Spurr, Huntington, Hugill.
Fulham line-up: Button, Odoi, Malone (Ream, 90), Parker (c), Madl, Kalas, McDonald, Aluko, Cairney, Ayite (Christensen, 81), Smith (Woodrow, 73). Subs not used: Jorenen, Stearman, Tunnicliffe, Sessegnon.
Referee: Mr J Adcock
Attendance: 10,809 (637 Fulham fans)