Preston 1-2 Fulham: Fulham pick up crucial win in relegation fight
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 05/04/16 10:41pm
Moussa Dembele's second-half winner earned Fulham a 2-1 victory over Preston at Deepdale which moves them seven points clear of the Sky Bet Championship relegation zone.
Dembele struck 16 minutes from time to snatch all three points, after Ross McCormack's early opener was cancelled out by Marnick Vermijl, to all but end Preston's slim hopes of a play-off place.
Joe Garner tested Fulham keeper Marcus Bettinelli in the third minute when he rose highest to flick Paul Gallagher's free-kick on target from 12 yards.
But Fulham stunned Deepdale by taking the lead after five minutes. Tim Ream's ball forward picked out McCormack, who shrugged off Bailey Wright before rounding Anders Lindegaard to slot home his 21st league goal of the season.
Preston almost hit back just three minutes later through Jordan Hugill, but the forward's hooked shot from 12 yards was headed off the line by Michael Madl.
Despite their lowly status Fulham are the Championship's second-highest scorers, only behind leaders Burnley, and they went close again on 23 minutes when Tom Cairney whistled a shot just wide from 18 yards.
The hosts threatened after 40 minutes when Adam Reach's cross found Garner at the back post, but his shot was smothered by Bettinelli.
And Garner came even closer in first-half stoppage time when he met Gallagher's cross but headed onto the roof of the net from eight yards.
McCormack came close to grabbing his second just two minutes after the break when he unfurled a ferocious strike from the edge of the area which Lindegaard did well to tip over the bar.
Preston were looking to stretch their unbeaten run to four and pushed for the equaliser with Garner again hitting the target from a Gallagher corner in the 55th minute, but his tame header was straight at Bettinelli.
And they got their equaliser in stunning fashion after 63 minutes. Substitute right-back Vermijl picked the ball up on the right side, jinked past two defenders and lashed the ball past Bettinelli from 15 yards.
Against the run of play Fulham went back in front in the 74th minute. McCormack's curling free-kick from 20 yards came back off the post and fell to Dembele, who tucked the ball past Lindegaard from six yards to notch Fulham's 29th away goal this season - a league high.
As the game opened up, Preston almost hit back again three minutes later when Ben Pearson's cross picked out Jermaine Beckford eight yards out but his scuffed effort was clutched by Bettinelli diving low to his left.
In the closing stages, Gallagher had a chance to snatch a point for Preston but fired over from 20 yards as Simon Grayson's side slipped to their first home defeat since January 23.