Portsmouth could not win to make up for Harry Redknapp's departure to Tottenham as two Fulham substitutes combined at Fratton Park for a late equaliser yesterday evening.
Peter Crouch had fired Pompey ahead on 61 minutes as the home side looked to have made light of Redknapp's defection. But Fulham kept battling and Erik Nevland, who had been on the field for only four minutes, set up Clint Dempsey for an 87th-minute strike.
Portsmouth had appeared to be unaffected by Redknapp's exit with a crisp and creative first-half display. Nadir Belhadj went agonisingly close with a superb solo run and shot that Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer splendidly kept out in the 31st minute. Schwarzer also excelled in defying Crouch's diving header, while Younes Kaboul had a header cleared off the line. Fulham's Andrew Johnson and Danny Murphy – both on 99 career goals – also went close.
Jermain Defoe might have been slightly subdued in the first half, possibly missing Redknapp's influence, but a driving run down the right five minutes into the second half suggested otherwise. After a 40-yard burst he fired a fierce low drive a foot wide of Schwarzer's left-hand post. Then, four minutes later, Defoe's bludgeoning strike demanded a first-class save from the Australian.
David James did not look quite as secure at the other end, fumbling terribly when Gera crossed and was lucky Belhadj was on hand to tidy up.
But Pompey worked hard for the breakthrough, which came just after the hour, Defoe setting up Crouch to fire home a low drive to join his strike partner on six goals for the season.
It came after outstanding work by the non-stop Lassana Diarra, who was foiled in a solo run attempt through the middle but soon won the ball back and played in Defoe who squared it for Crouch to score from 12 yards.
Fulham kept battling but with Kaboul having an outstanding game alongside stand-in skipper Sylvain Distin at the back, Pompey felt confident enough, six minutes from the end, to send on substitute Niko Kranjcar for his first action since ankle surgery in August.
But with three minutes of normal time left, two Fulham substitutes combined to further damage Pompey's day. Dempsey met Nevland's cross from the right with a half-volley that flew past James – and Portsmouth could not find a winner, despite four minutes of stoppage-time.
Goals: Crouch 61 (1-0); Dempsey 87 (1-1).
Portsmouth (4-4-2): James; Pamarot, Kaboul, Distin, Belhadj; Diop, Diarra (Mvuemba, 83), Hughes, Armand Traore (Kranjcar, 84); Crouch, Defoe. Substitutes not used: Ashdown, Hreidarsson, Utaka, Kanu, Djimi Traore.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil (Nevland, 84), Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Davies, Murphy, Bullard, Gera (Dempsey, 71 ); Johnson, Zamora. Substitutes not used: Zuberbuhler, Ki-Hyeon, Milsom, Kallio, Baird.
Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire)
Man of the match: Kaboul