MANCHESTER // Mark Hughes must have thought Manchester City had cemented a place in the top four after goals by Joleon Lescott - his first for the club - and Martin Petrov put them 2-0 up early in the second half. But gritty Fulham had other ideas, and a frenetic 15-minute period was rounded off when Damien Duff pulled one back for the visitors and then Clint Dempsey, who scored twice in Fulham's victory at City last season, dramatically scored the equaliser.
It might have been a third game in seven days for Fulham, but they were still tireless in their efforts. They had the first opportunity in the 15th minute when Diomansy Kamara beat the offside trap to race clear, but his touch was poor and Shay Given rushed out to gather. But in Craig Bellamy, City have a player in the best form of his career. He started on the right wing on his return from injury, but drifted centrally and left to unsettle the visiting defence.
His confidence was evident when Martin Petrov picked him out with a seventh-minute corner on the left edge of the box. Alone, Bellamy set himself and thumped a volley just over the bar. Carlos Tevez could have had a first-half hat-trick, twice shooting inches wide and then flicking a Petrov corner on top of the net. Emmanuel Adebayor, denied a 19th minute penalty when Stephen Kelly caught him in the box, then fired straight into the chest of Mark Schwarzer after being set up by Bellamy.
Micah Richards did find the net four minutes before the break, shouldering in a Petrov corner, but the referee Kevin Friend ruled it out for a push by Gareth Barry. Mark Hughes urged his side on and they responded with two goals in the space of seven minutes. Bellamy's corner caused panic and when Adebayor shot goalwards, Lescott forced it over the line. Petrov then coolly finished on the hour. But Fulham were resilient and two minutes later Duff drove in past Given to give them a lifeline.
And in the 68th minute, City were simply stunned when Dempsey's header crept into the corner of their net. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org