REPORT: CITY 1-2 FULHAMSCOTT Parker scored three minutes from time to consign Norwich City to a 2-1 defeat against Fulham on Boxing Day.
The former Canaries loanee dispatched his shot from outside the box to earn Rene Meulensteen's visitors the three points at Carrow Road.
Gary Hooper had put City ahead early on with a deflected effort, but the Cottagers were always in the game and equalised when Pajtim Kasami curled in a low free-kick.
The result left Chris Hughton's side still in 14th place in the Premier League on the final whistle, but now only three points clear of the dropzone as Fulham's stranglehold over City continued.
The hosts were unchanged from the 0-0 draw at Sunderland, although Russell Martin returned to the bench – Ricky van Wolfswinkel also had to be content with a place among the substitutes, but Jonny Howson missed out due to his back injury.
Fulham made five alterations from their 4-2 defeat at home to Manchester City. Most notable was the absence of goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who was injured in training on Christmas Day. David Stockdale deputised for the Dutch international.
It was City’s keeper who had the first work to do in the early stages, however, when Kasami’s testing drive from 25 yards – after Bradley Johnson had been dispossessed - was eventually held by John Ruddy.
Nathan Redmond’s teasing cross was just out of the reach of Johan Elmander up the other end as City settled, and they got their reward on 13 minutes.
The Fulham defence allowed Hooper too much time to advance, and his low shot ricocheted off Aaron Hughes, looped over Stockdale and into the back of the net.
Kasami drilled wide as the Cottagers tried to rebuild, but Hooper had another opportunity on 25 minutes when a wayward Sascha Riether header allowed him a shot at goal that drifted just wide.
Leroy Fer’s foul on Kasami allowed Kieran Richardson the chance to test Ruddy from 20 yards – thankfully for City his set-piece whistled just over the bar.
The influential Kasami was involved moments later as Fulham fashioned their best chance of the game up that that point – his cross found Damien Duff at the back-post, but the veteran winger scuffed his effort wide.
What followed was a bizarre incident as City’s sloppiness in possession nearly gifted the opposition a levellervas Ruddy’s clearance was charged down by Parker, with the ball ending up the net.
Luckily the ball had come off Parker’s arm so was disallowed, but the visitors’ fortunes turned when they equalised on 33 minutes.
Parker was tripped on the edge of the box, and after Steve Sidwell had feigned to shoot, Kasami whipped a left-footed free-kick beyond Ruddy and into the corner.
Fulham’s confidence was growing, but City finished the half the stronger, with a lengthy move ending when Steven Whittaker’s shot with the outside of his right foot being comfortably collected by Stockdale.
HALF-TIME: Norwich City 1-1 Fulham
Michael Turner picked up a yellow card early in the second half – a booking that means he will miss Saturday’s meeting with Manchester United – for an off the ball incident with Taarabt.
Robert Snodgrass delivered one of his teasing corners on 52 minutes, and it met by Leroy Fer. However, Riether was well-placed on the line to head clear.
Taarabt latched onto a Fernando Amorebieta long pass straight afterwards, nudging an effort straight at Ruddy before the Canaries had a decent penalty shout turned down when Elmander was pushed in the back by Riether.
Van Wolfswinkel was introduced for Elmander as Hughton made his first substitution, and with around 20 minutes left to play Wes Hoolahan took the place of Snodgrass.
A goalmouth scramble after a Fulham corner nearly saw the ball bundled over the line but for Ruddy’s obstinance – Goal Decision System replays showed the ball had only been kept out of the net by a matter of inches.
Sebastien Bassong had to be sharp to block a Sidwell shot from inside the box with quarter of hour left to play as City struggled to inject any attacking impetus into their play.
Fulham got a lead they deserved with three minutes left on the clock – Parker picked up the ball outside the box, jinxed inside Fer and planted it beyond Ruddy into the left corner.
FULL-TIME: Norwich City 1-2 Fulham
GOALS: Norwich City: Gary Hooper (13) – Fulham: Pajtim Kasami (33), Scott Parker (87)
NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Whittaker, Turner, Bassong (c), Olsson; Snodgrass (Hoolahan 72), Fer, Johnson, Redmond; Elmander (van Wolfswinkel 63), Hooper. Subs not used: Bunn (GK), Martin, Becchio, R Bennett, Josh Murphy.
FULHAM: Stockdale; Riether, Hughes, Amorebieta, Richardson; Sidwell, Parker (c), Kasami; Duff (Rodallega 58), Taarabt (Dejagah 72), Kačaniklić (Riise 90). Subs not used: Bettinelli (GK), Boateng, Ruiz, Bent.