After a disappointing result in the Europa league on Thursday evening, Newcastle returned to Premier League action on Sunday afternoon knowing that it was imperative that they returned to winning ways against a resurgent Fulham side.

Prior to kick off, the visitors had only managed three wins on the road this season but with Dimitar Berbatov on a hot scoring streak Martin Jol would have been quietly confident that his side could get something from this game, especially against a Newcastle side which had slid back into the danger zone and would be weary from their mid-week exertions.

Indeed, Thursday’s trip to Portugal probably instigated Santon’s hamstring problem in the 17th minute which saw him pull up sharply and forced him off the field, with Gutierrez reverting to left back.

This was the only real item of note during the opening minutes of this edgy encounter, which did nothing to calm the nerves of many Newcastle supporters. After the substitution Newcastle did manage to secure a corner, but with the aerial prowess of Brede Hangeland, Marveaux’s effort was never going to find a team mate. However, Newcastle kept on pressing for an opening only for Cabaye’s effort to clear the crossbar but there was precious little else for the supporters to get excited about.

As the match crossed the half hour mark both teams were struggling to gain a strangle hold on the match, as the game meandered at a speed which verged on walking pace at times with neither defence was troubled by attackers breaking beyond them. However, shortly before the break Fulham had the clearest opportunity on goal as Bryan Ruiz had a shot from a corner from Giorgos Karagounis, but could only find Tim Krul. This seemed to galvanise Sylvain Marveaux, who had one of his most promising games for a while, and gained a free-kick off Eyong Enoh as he tried to run at the Fulham defence. From the resulting set piece Newcastle were unable to find a break through and as the game moved towards half-time many supporters were anxiously searching for a hero, especially as news began to filter through that Sunderland had gone ahead at Stamford Bridge.

The half-time whistle gave Alan Pardew a chance to spur on his attackers who had not really threatened the Fulham defence, but the initial stages of the second half did not inspire Newcastle fans with much confidence as the game lacked any cohesion. However, in the 53rd minute Newcastle finally managed to mount some concerted pressure on the Fulham back line when Anita saw his volley deflect off Emmanuel Frimpong and onto the post, then Cisse was played in by Gouffran but contrived to try to control the ball rather than put his foot through it and saw his effort roll into the grateful arms of Mark Schwarzer.

Newcastle then saw Steven Taylor’s shot saved easily by Schwarzer, before they peppered the woodwork of Fulham’s goal. Firstly, Marveaux’s corner was flicked on by Gouffran, only to see it rebound off the post and into Cisse’s path who contrived to hit the same post from a matter of yards. During this passage of play the Newcastle fans were baying for a penalty as it looked as though Sascha Riether had handled the ball on the line but it was unclear whether he had actually touched the ball and it would have been a tough call for the referee to make.

Newcastle’s inability to make this passage of pressure count was nearly to prove disastrous in the 68th minute as the mercurial Berbatov was left unmarked during a free-kick from John Arne Riise, but his header was brilliantly diverted by Tim Krul’s fingertips. Krul had a fairly quiet afternoon, but this aforementioned save kept Newcastle level and set up a tense finish.

As the game seemed set to drift towards a draw, Cisse decided to up the ante. Firstly, on 88th minutes he got his head to a superb cross for Anita only to be denied once again by Schwarzer, but in the 93rd minute of injury time Cisse was not to be denied as he latched on to a loose ball in the Fulham area, which he dispatched home to the delirious raptures of the crowd. Cisse’s goal-scoring record may not be as good as last season but this season’s efforts may prove to be more valuable at the end of the season.

Our next game sees the arrival of Benfica to St James’ Park on Thursday night, which may prove to be our last European night for a while as they are a tricky side to beat. But that game is a mere amuse bouche to one of the most meaningful derbies that we have seen for some time. Let’s get ready to rumble.

By Rachel Horne