Craig Bryson scored a stunning equaliser on the cusp of half time as Derby County and Fulham battled out a 1-1 draw in SW6.
The returning midfielder side footed a volley into the far corner of the goal to claw Derby level after Marcus Olsson, making his debut, turned the ball into his own net midway through the first half.
Either side could have won in an end-to-end second half, Tom Cairney and Johnny Russell going close for either side in the dying embers of the entertaining contest at Craven Cottage.
Shooting towards the vocal 4,000 travelling, a much changed Derby – showing five changes to the starting XI – started strongly and sustained a heavy spell of pressure on Andy Lonergan’s goal in the opening 10 minutes.
Chris Martin registered the visitors’ first chance, shooting wide after he and Bryson displayed neat interplay, before the crossbar came to the home side’s rescue minutes later.
Richard Keogh leapt highest to beat Lonergan to Russell’s in-swinging free kick, but saw his header clip to the top of the bar before going over – a thump to the turf an indicator of how good a chance it was.
Showing superb technique, Chris Baird, making his first start since the 3-1 win at MK Dons in September, volleyed over the crossbar moments later, but Fulham weathered the early pressure before hitting Derby with a sucker punch.
From the left, Luke Garbutt was set free down the left and his low centre, which was not quite dealt with by Baird, was bundled into his own net by Olsson, who failed to adjust his feet quick enough.
The goal against the run of play filled Slaviša Jokanović’s side with confidence as the contest opened up into a more even affair.
Scott Carson confidently watched Cairney’s lashed effort fly wide of his near post, whilst the Derby ‘keeper had to be alert to prevent Moussa Dembélé having a free header following a deeper cross.
The half seemed to be petering out, before a move of quality saw the Rams equalise with a minute of the half remaining.
Following a prolonged spell of possession, Jason Shackell clipped a lofted pass into the path of Martin on the right, who in turn delivered a similar ball into the area for Bryson to volley into the far corner of Lonergan’s goal to send the travelling contingent into raptures.
Jokanović, the Fulham Head Coach, introduced Alexander Kačaniklić to add a different dimension to his attack and shortly before the hour mark he tamely shot straight into the arms of Carson.
With the game evenly contested, Jamie O’Hara drew frustration after firing well wide from range whilst Andreas Weimann volleyed over at the far post after the hosts failed to deal with another free kick from Russell.
As the second half wore on, the hosts continued to carve out the better chances as they soaked up intermediate spells of Derby pressure, before hitting the backline with counter attacks.
Dembélé passed up a guilt-edged chanced on 65 minutes as the young French forward guided a free header from a corner well wide of Carson’s goal, before Kačaniklić pulled a left foot shot wide after driving down the middle.
The closest the hosts came to a winner came through their leading goalscorer and Captain Ross McCormack. He had largely been kept quiet, but Carson had to be alert to deny the forward, who had dashed away from the Derby defence.
Clement’s side had created very little in the second half, but with 10 minutes remaining they tested the resolve of the Fulham backline by dominating the possession and working their opponents across the park.
Russell, after taking one touch too many, saw a shot blocked from inside the area and Bradley Johnson, the substitute, saw the same outcome with an ambitious drive from range.
There after Lonergan was called into action on two separate occasions to prevent Derby a late winner.
The ‘keeper denied Russell in a one-on-one situation after he had collected an inch perfect long ball from Keogh, whilst he also beat away Cyrus Christie’s drive after the right back showed quick feet to evade a number of challengers.
From there, either side could have stolen all three points in added time. Cairney closest as he whipped a cross shot agonisingly wide, moments after McCormack had fired into the side netting from a tight angle.
The two sides, though, were forced to settle for a point as the Rams’ winless run in the Sky Bet Championship extended to seven matches.
Fulham: Lonergan, Richards, Burn, Amorebieta, Garbutt, Cairney, Ince (Kačaniklić, 46), O’Hara, Christensen (Parker, 86), McCormack, Dembélé (Smith, 76)
Substitutes not used: Lewis, Fredericks, Labyad, Ream
Derby County: Carson, Christie, Keogh, Shackell, Olsson; Baird (C) (Butterfield, 67), Hendrick, Bryson (Johnson, 73); Russell, Weimann (Blackman, 77), Martin
Substitutes not used: Grant, Warnock, Ince, Bent
Attendance: 18,472Tweets by @ dcfcofficial