IT proved to be a case of 'capital punishment' for Stoke City... as they slipped to a fourth consecutive Premier League defeat at Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon.
A debut strike for Russian Pavel Pogrebnyak and an unfortunate Thomas Sorensen own goal condemned the Potters to their latest loss, despite skipper Ryan Shawcross ensuring a nervy final 15 minutes for the hosts with his second goal of the campaign.
The result saw the Cottagers elevate themselves above the Potters in the League table by virtue of a greater goal difference.
Tony Pulis made four changes to his starting line-up ahead of the clash; one of which was enforced upon him, as Robert Huth served the first of a three match ban following his harsh dismissal against Sunderland seven days earlier.
With Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Upson vying for a starting spot alongside Shawcross in the middle, Pulis eventually opted for the latter of the pair to step in to serve as the German international's deputy.
In midfield, Matthew Etherington overcame a bout of illness to line up on the left hand side of midfield, alongside the recalled Honduran Wilson Palacios and Republic of Ireland pair Glenn Whelan and Jonathan Walters.
Jermaine Pennant dropped down to the bench, whilst Palacios came in for Rory Delap, who failed to make the matchday squad. Up front Peter Crouch was partnered by Kenwyne Jones, with Cameron Jerome having to settle for a spot amongst the substitutes.
The hosts, who lost the reverse fixture at the Britannia Stadium 2-0 in October, included former Stoke loanee Stephen Kelly in their starting eleven, as well as £3 million transfer deadline day signing Pogrebnyak.
It was the Russian striker who was almost handed an early opportunity to fire the Cottagers into the lead after Moussa Dembele had superbly freed Damien Duff down the left flank; fortunately though the Irishman's ball across goal towards Pogrebnyak was well snuffed out by Thomas Sorensen.
At the other end, Whelan tested Australian Mark Schwarzer with a rasping 30-yarder with the first real effort on target, however, Fulham's first strike at goal in the fifteenth minute resulted in the opening goal of the afternoon.
Somewhat fortuitously, John Arne Riise's attempted ball through to Clint Dempsey managed to find Pogrebnyak, and he endeared himself to the home supporters with a clinical finish into the roof of the net from 15-yards.
Despite the goal, Stoke surged forward in search of an immediate leveller but Jones struck an effort harmlessly wide of goal after Palacios displayed his intelligence by superbly freeing him just outside of the penalty box.
Referee Chris Foy did the visitors no favours by continuously waving play on when Crouch was clearly being manhandled by the equally towering Fulham centre back Brede Hangeland.
Stoke certainly weren't proving to be pushovers as they continued to match the hosts in terms of possession on the ball, but they were punished for allowing Dempsey too much time on the ball on the half hour mark as they doubled their advantage.
The American was allowed to turn at his leisure in the middle of the park, surge forward and unleash a crashing effort which swerved in mid air to deceive Sorensen, came back off the bar and eventually found its way over the line via the back of the unfortunate Denmark stopper.
The 35-year old had to be alert to deny Martin Jol's side a third shortly before the interval, as he was quick off his mark to block Duff's goalbound effort, after the backline had allowed Dempsey's punt forward to find the winger inside the danger zone.
The visitors briefly threatened with a number of half-chances of their own; the best of which saw Walters glance a Marc Wilson centre just over the crossbar.
England defender Upson spurned a glorious opportunity to halve the deficit a minute into the second period by volleying a Whelan free-kick over the bar from just three-yards, with Fulham 'keeper Schwarzer looking resigned to the defender hitting the back of the net.
Undoubtedly, the Potters did look a lot brighter as the second half began, but the warning signs continued to come from Fulham as Duff attempted an audacious effort from an acute angle which Sorensen did well to block.
The game went through something of a quiet spell up until the hour mark; when Pulis made a trio of substitutions in as many minutes by introducing Ricardo Fuller, Jermaine Pennant and Ryan Shotton at the expense of Jones, Etherington and Wilkinson.
The changes re-energised the side as they started to push forward with more panache and purpose, with Jamaican Fuller in particular, giving Hangelend and fellow defender Aaron Hughes a torrid time at the back.
It was the City favourite who earned his side a corner with a superb darting run and strike, which brought with it an avenue back into the encounter for his team-mates. Pennant curled in the flag-kick, Shawcross leapt above Hughes and superbly glanced the ball into the far corner of the net.
You could sense the anxiety sweep around the chilly Craven Cottage as that goal brought with it a huge turnaround in the encounter as Stoke started to finally grab the game by the scruff of the neck and really ask serious questions of the hosts' backline.
Pennant was proving to be a nuisance on the flank as he continued to tease Kelly with his close control and trickery, and he very nearly laid the leveller on for Crouch five minutes from time, but he volleyed over after Fuller had nodded the winger's centre into his path.
Stoke threw everything forward in the dying stages in one last attempt to take a point from the game, but the hosts stood firm to extend their unbeaten home run in 2012 to five games.