Fulham slipped closer to relegation as Scott Parker’s first game as caretaker manager ended in defeat by west London neighbours Chelsea at Craven Cottage.
Gonzalo Higuain set Chelsea on their way to a first Premier League away win of 2019 with a high-quality finish from Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross.
Fulham, who sacked Claudio Ranieri on Thursday, produced a spirited display and equalised through Calum Chambers from a corner, awarded after recalled Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga’s exceptional save had kept out Aleksandar Mitrovic’s volley.
They were level for only four minutes, Jorginho’s well placed finish from 20 yards leaving Chelsea only two points adrift of fourth spot.
Ryan Sessegnon thought he had equalised in the closing moments but the 18-year-old’s effort was ruled out for offside.
Reaction from Craven Cottage and the rest of Sunday’s Premier League games
Better from Fulham but relegation looms
Despite a 20th league defeat of the season, Fulham fans applauded the home side off the pitch at the end after a much improved performance.
Parker demanded a response in his first game and he got one, but time is running out for a team who have looked out of their depth most of the season and have now lost eight of their past nine league games.
Relegation is looming for Fulham, who are 10 points from safety with nine games remaining, including home matches with Liverpool and Manchester City.
It might have been a different story but for Arrizabalaga.
The Chelsea keeper was kept busy with saves from Tom Cairney and Joe Bryan, but his acrobatic first-half stop to deny Mitrovic, with the score 1-0 to Chelsea, was outstanding.
It resulted in a corner from which Chambers, who was left totally unmarked, equalised. But Chelsea were soon level again.
In a frantic ending, Serbia forward Mitrovic could have equalised but headed straight at Arrizabalaga before Sessegnon put the ball in the back of the net only for a tight offside call to go against him.
Parker has described his new role as an “audition” and he certainly got a reaction from his players. Now he has to find a way of turning decent performances into points.