A late-late equaliser for Saints salvaged a point from a lackluster second half after we led 1-0 at the break.
Jose Fonte was the unlikely hero with a late equaliser.
Injuries to Gaston Ramirez and Nathaniel Clyne in training left Saints looking understrength before the start. Frazer Richardson started at right back with Danny Fox staying at left back. In the centre of midfield Morgan Schneiderlin and Steve Davis kept their places with Jay Rodriguez promoted to the starting line-up in Ramirez' absence. Gazzaniga kept his place in goal with Artur Boruc absent from the bench.
We started the first half in the best possible fashion, after forcing an early corner, Danny Fox's delivery found Jose Fonte at the near post, his flick looped beautifully over the front of the goal and crept into the top right hand corner of the Fulham net. After just four minutes we led 1-0.
Our already shallow defensive strength was tested just after this thanks to an injury to Frazer Richardson, after a three minute stoppage he was stretchered off the pitch and was replaced by Jos Hooiveld. Maya Yoshida took Frazer's place at right back leaving us with our familiar centre back paring of Jos Hooiveld and Jose Fonte.
Fulham looked to play their way back into the game after our change but found a Saints defence that was at this point holding uncharacteristically firm. We looked to fight back and then spurned a chance to hit Fulham for two. Some neet footwork from Adam Lallana down the left fed Jay Rodriguez who laid the ball deliciously across the goal into the path of Rickie Lambert. With Mark Schwarzer pulled out of position we braced ourselves for Rickie's finish. Our prolific frontman unfortunately hadn't read the script on this occasion, his shot trickled agonizingly past the right hand post granting Fulham a massive reprieve.
Jason Puncheon then saw a shot cleared off the line and Rickie an effort well saved as we sought to push home our advantage but Fulham then looked to finish the half strongly themselves with an effort by Aaron Hughes saved by Gazzaniga and a long ball to Hugo Rodallega resulting in a shot hit tamely wide. Fulham were certainly not dead an burried at half time and our profligacy in front of goal would come back to haunt us.
Despite astrong start to the half it was clear that Fulham were to be a different proposition in the second half. Far more direct in attack and more confident in possession they began pressing us on a far more consistent basis. An early effort by Rickie Lambert from a Schneiderlin through-ball sadly not a sign of things to come.
Paulo Gazzaniga was the hero on the hour, A Steve Sidwell shot struck the post and was followed up by a header by Hugo Rodallega. The close range effort looked to be destined for the net but Gazzaniga - at full stretch - palmed the ball wide. The save brought a standing ovation from the home crowd as Gazzaniga made a further claim for an extended run in the number '1' jersey.
No heroics from Gazzaniga could have stopped what came next. Under pressure Saints had dropped extremely deep to cover a Fulham attack. An uncertain clearance fell to John Arne-Riise on the left wing, in acres of space he lined up one of his trademark thunderbolt shots and unleashed from 30 yards. His shot was fierce but looked to be going wide, unfortunately, running back accross goal to cover, Jos Hooiveld's shin made contact with the ball and deflected it into the home net. Fulham's pressure had paid off and despite all our good work in the first 45 minutes we were now fighting to hold onto a point. Some more baffling substitutions by Nigel Adkins saw Puncheon and Lambert, who had looked impressive replaced by Richard Chaplow and the frustrating Guly Do Prado. The atmosphere in the ground by now was decidedly odd, with a mixture of confusion and bewilderment overtaking the hope felt in the first half.
On 88 minutes, a surging run, this time from the right wing unlocked us again. A cross behind our backpedlling defence fell to Keiran Richardson who's strike once again deflected off Jos Hooiveld and again beyond a helpless Paulo Gazzaniga. It looked as though we were about to drop 12 points this season from winning positions. Against all perceived logic though it was only to be 10.
A late rally saw us force a free kick to the right side of the Fulham penalty area. Danny Fox's delivery looped over the Fulham defense and found Jose Fonte's head rising above his marker, the ball flew beyond Schwarzer and granted us a vital late equaliser. A continuation of this late rally applied more pressure to the Cottagers but to no further avail. We had truly dragged something out of nothing.
Saints: Gazzaniga, Fox, Richardson (Hooiveld, 8.), Fonte, Yoshida, Schneiderlin, Davis, Puncheon (Chaplow, 61), Lallana, Rodriguez, Lambert (Guly, 67)
Unused Substitutes: K. Davis, Reeves, Ward-Prowse, Mayuka
Fulham: Schwarzer, Riise, Hangeland, Baird, Hughes, Riether, Sidwell (Karagounis, 72), Duff, Kacaniklic (Richardson, 65), Ruiz, Rodallega
Unused Substitutes: Stockdale, Kelly, Senderos, Briggs, Kasami
Hooiveld O.G. 70