West Bromwich Albion maintained their unbeaten Championship record as they came from behind to rescue a point with a draw in the south west London sunshine at Fulham.
Both goals owed a good bit to fortune, as Semi Ajayi’s controversial late headed equaliser cancelled out a left-foot attempted chipped cross from Anthony Knockaert which deceived Albion goalkeeper Sam Johnstone in flight and dipped in at the far post.
Knockaert’s 49th-minute goal – his second in three home games – looked likely to earn all three points for the hosts at Craven Cottage.
But, from deadline signing Matheus Pereira’s 80th-minute corner, home keeper Marcus Bettinelli was distracted by Albion striker Charlie Austin attempting to lay his hands on him on the line.
The indignant Bettinelli and could only parry the ball tamely, allowing Nigerian international Ajayi to nod in at the far post for his first goal for the club.
Slaven Bilic’s Baggies have gone behind in six of their seven games and yet still not lost in the league – earning them the most points from losing positions in the Championship this season (12).
But Scott Parker’s Fulham, who remain two points behind Albion, were the better side for the first hour and went closest to breaking the deadlock before the break.
Tom Cairney evaded the linesman’s flag to get free inside the box and latch onto Harrison Reed’s pass, but his left-foot strike was touched onto the bar by the outstretched fingertips of Johnstone.
Reed was then also denied by the alert Baggies keeper, who reacted sharply to keep out his close-range header.
Austin, still to score his first league goal for Albion, volleyed over, then could only direct a tame header straight at Bettinelli.
And the visitors were still second best before the second-half introduction just before the hour of their first two substitutes Filip Krovinovic and Kyle Edwards, followed by Hal Robson-Kanu.
Albion even went close to a winner right on 90 minutes but Darnell Furlong’s header flew wide.
Fulham boss Scott Parker:
“I’m disappointed with the result and the way the match ended because for 60 minutes we controlled the game. I don’t think anyone would have begrudged us if we had been 2-0 up at half-time.
“But then we stopped doing it. We went from front to back very early and played into the hands of a team that has a lot of pace on the break.
“We kept turning the ball over and, if we turn games into basketball games, we are going to be beaten because we haven’t got the players to play like that.
“I want the players to understand the best way was for us to be successful is how we played in the first hour.”
West Bromwich Albion head coach Slaven Bilic told BBC WM:
“We knew we would have to defend aggressively with numbers but, for the first hour, we lost the majority of the 50-50 balls.
“Then we change the mindset to what would we wanted it to be at the start and then we could smell that it was only a matter of time before we capitalised.
“They ended up more happy to hear the final whistle, which means something, especially here away, but we have to be that way from the very first minute.
“We were in their box with numbers and Semi was hungry to score. The lad is totally focused. He has been marvellous for us.”