Phil Jagielka returned to the starting line-up to drive Everton to a win that should have been far more convincing. Pienaar opened the scoring after some great interpassing by The Blues but the early goal led to a mysterious complacency compounded by a mixture of good goalkeeping by Schwarzer and lax Everton finishing that saw Fulham coming worryingly close to an equalizer on more than one occasion.
Everton started brightly with a wayward shot from Anichebe and a great header from the first corner by Fellaini, that was blocked by Schwarzer. At the other end, Berbatov came very close to connecting on a good ball from Ruiz. Mirallas looked too have got behind the Fulham defence but lashed over when ruled offside.
Some good football finally paid off for the home side with a very nicely constructed goal, Coleman setting it up perfectly through a textbook cut-back from the byeline after some fine interpay down the right and Pienaar was left with space to drive the ball well wide of Schwarzer into the Fulham net.
The goal was just deserts for Everton. who then ratcheted down the tempo to almost a walking pace. Berbatov hobbled off on the half-hour and the Blues then thought a little more about maybe looking for a second goal. But Jelavic was not at the races, those trademark first-touch strikes now a thing of the past. Another good move deserved a much better shot from Fellaini who fired lamely wide of the far post. A good ball found Jelavic in space but his ball in to Anichebe was hopeless.
Another great move saw Baines darting inside his defender and setting up Fellaini for the strike but Anichebe's thigh prevented it from reaching the goal. Everton's failure to build on their lead in he first half was apparently down to it being "too easy" for them, while Fulham kept getting closer to equalizing.
More fine approach play failed to produce an end product after the break, with Jelavic still struggling and Mirallas crossing poorly after a great run, while Fulham again came too close for comfort at the other end.
A good free-kick opportunity wide right was wasted, while from a corner, Jagielka came close to glancing his header in but it went wide Moyes finally saw what was not happening and swapped out Jelavic for Barkley after 67 minutes.
Mirallas was not having a very good game either, getting himself well offside as Everton failed to really impose their superiority on a poor but worryingly dangerous Fulham side.
Better work from Coleman earned a free-kick when Emmanuelson downed him just outside the area, but the free-kick was cleared out to Osman whose shot was blocked by Sendeross, with nothing coming from the ensuing corner.
A promising run by Mirallas ended abruptly when he went over after some tricky work but the ref waved away his appeal for a penalty. Mirallas then got a glorious chance and powered in a tremendous shot that bought a stunning save from Schwarzer.
Entering the final quarter-hour, and the Blues finally upped the pace, playing with more intent to pin Fulham back and threaten that important second goal that would eradicate the worrying prospect of a 15th draw.
Another great chance clipped to the back post was meat and drink for Fellaini, with Schwarzer beaten, but the Belgian giant somehow contrived to beat the ball into the ground and it bounced clear over the bar! Osman then got booked, taking out Emanuelson and earning a yellow card for his 'professional' foul.
Barkley got free and looked to curl it around Schwarzer who again denied the Blues a second goal. To their credit, the Blues kept pushing into the 4 mins of added time, but Fulham still had enough to get forward for a nerve-wracking finish. It will go down as a win, but the Blues' perennial inability to really seal the deal when required is a lasting indictment of a season that could and should have delivered so much more than it has.
With the every-game-is-a-cup-final mantra made virtually redundant following their abject showing at the Stadium of Light last weekend, Everton come into what is their penultimate home game of the 2012-13 season with much of the drama having been sucked out of what remains of their Premier League campaign.
Quite rightly, David Moyes maintained in his pre-match press conference still has European qualification in its sights and that the Europa League was the most realistic target but privately the manager will know that the best he can hope for will likely be a sixth-place finish.
The Blues sit six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and five behind Tottenham in fifth but have played a game less than both clubs as the two London outfit still have to meet in a fixture postponed because of Chelsea' involvement in the FA Cup a fortnight ago. Everton have 12 points to play for and still have to travel to Stamford Bridge on the final day but while Moyes would love to go into that game within reach of Rafael Benitez' side, it's going to take a significant improvement by his players and an unlikely collapse in form from their rivals for Europe.
Still, while the possibility remains, the Blues must push on and, given how much money is at stake for each position in the table, at least retain sixth place.
Though he has injury concerns over Darron Gibson and Phil Jagielka, Moyes should have a fairly strong squad from which to choose. He indicated that both players "have a chance" of being involved, though you would think that it would be prudent to allow Jagielka's ankle another week to heal after he re-opened the wound he sustained against Reading last month.
Gibson has been battling a thigh issue for much of the season but has battled on since returning from a lengthy layoff in January and he could be risked. If not, Marouane Fellaini will likely continue in central midfield, probably alongside Kevin Mirallas, Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar, although the latter duo did not cover themselves in glory at all against Sunderland.
Likewise Victor Anichebe up front who, since scoring the second goal against QPR two weeks ago, has marauded around up front with great industry but to almost no goalscoring effect and Moyes could opt to return Nikica Jelavic to the starting XI, if only because Anichebe has looked particularly jaded in the later stages of the last two games.
Given Everton's remarkable home record against Fulham — they have a 100% record over the Cottagers in the Premier League — and the fact that Martin Jol's side failed to trouble either Arsenal or Chelsea when the Blues needed them to over the last 10 days, this should be a routine win for Moyes's boys. Things are rarely so cut-and-dried, though, and they will need to create enough chances in the final third to get the job done, something they singularly and infuriatingly failed to do last weekend.
Defeat for Spurs at Wigan and any dropped points by Chelsea at home to Swansea would make the European qualification picture look a lot more interesting again but Everton have to hold up their end of the bargain, even if if feels a little late in the day.
|Premier League Scores|
|Premier League Table|
|2012-13 Reports Index|
|Richardson (56' Duff)|
|Emanuelson : 71'|
|Karagounis (77' Rodallega)|
|Berbatov (30' Petric)|
|Subs not used|
|8||West Bromwich Albion||48|
|10||West Ham United||42|
|19||Queens Park Rangers||25|