Fulham 2 (2) Everton 0 (0)
Fulham were jubilant after two disastrous own-goals ensured another season in the Premiership, condemned Everton to defeat and left the visitor's UEFA Cup hopes in serious danger of going the same way as their ruined Champions League dream.
Fulham keeper Maik Taylor continues his
outstanding run of saves to keep The Cottagers
in front against their bete noire
David Moyes' men, who were in the frame for top-four finish until a fortnight ago, now face title favourites Manchester United next Sunday knowing defeat and a Blackburn victory at nose-diving Tottenham will mean they will miss out on Europe.
Alan Stubbs and Thomas Gravesen did the damage by putting through their own net at Loftus Road, gifting the Cottagers mathematical safety after months of relegation nerves in west London.
The Toffees in fact almost scored three own-goals as Joseph Yobo toe-poked a yard wide just before Stubbs stretched to reach Sean Davis' flick-on in the 34th minute, succeeding only in looping the ball over Richard Wright and into his own net.
Gravesen's own-goal was much more unlucky, with Steed Malbranque's whipped free-kick from the left wing brushing his studs to send the ball squirming under Richard Wright.
The goalkeeper was furious and unsuccessfully claimed Luis Boa Morte, standing next do Gravesen, had deflected the ball past him with his hand.
Lee Carsley had hit the post for Everton early on but Kevin Campbell fluffed the Merseysiders' two best chances, both of which were set up by excellent Wayne Rooney headers.
Fulham had plenty of chances and were good value for this win, which represents 'job done' for caretaker boss Chris Coleman as Mohamed Al Fayed's club can now look forward to a third term of top-flight football come August.
But for Everton, the belief that the start of next season would bring continental action is now fading fast.
In the opening exchanges, Maik Taylor - favoured by Coleman ahead of Edwin van der Sar - looked far from comfortable.
He spilt Thomas Gravesen's deflected shot to allow Carsley to nick in and hit the post from point-blank range.
Jon Harley flashed a shot past the angle of post and bar and, at the other end, Mark Pembridge sent a set-piece curling wide for the Toffees.
Pembridge also produced a wickedly inswinging corner from the right which Taylor leapt to tip over.
Fulham came back again, with Luis Boa Morte steaming goalwards and Yobo intercepting. The centre-back stuck out a boot and was relieved to see his toe-poke bobble just a yard wide of the left upright with Wright stranded.
But Stubbs was not so lucky in the 34th minute and scored a nightmare own-goal.
Davis flicked on Jon Harley's driven ball forward and it deflected behind Stubbs. He flung out a leg but only lofted the ball over Wright and into his own net.
Campbell had a great chance to level 60 seconds later but shot straight at Taylor after latching onto Rooney's flick on.
Alain Goma almost doubled Fulham's lead with a powerful header which hit the top of Wright's bar.
And it was 2-0 four minutes before the break. Boa Morte was fouled near the corner flag on the Cottagers' left flank and Malbranque whipped in a vicious free-kick.
The Frenchman fired the set-piece into the near-post and the ball slipped Gravesen's studs, deceived Wright and rolled inches over the line before the goalkeeper could claw it out.
Everton started strongly after the interval and could have scored twice in the 48th minute.
First, Rooney's free-kick was destined for the top corner before Taylor shuffled across his goalline to catch the ball above his head.
But the keeper's sloppy distribution was seized on by Gravesen, whose first-time shot from 45 yards out went a few yards wide with Taylor nowhere in sight.
Fulham went close to establishing a three-goal cushion four minutes later when Malbranque cut in from the right and Wright spilled his shot. Elvis Hammond slid in and the ball span just wide.
Campbell, who had missed Everton's best chance immediately after Stubbs' own-goal, was presented with another fine opening by Rooney with 65 minutes on the clock.
The 17-year-old nodded down to his skipper once again but Campbell got the ball caught between his feet in front of goal and then fell over.
With 10 minutes left, Fulham substitute Louis Saha sent an angled drive inches past the far post.
Duncan Ferguson, who had come off the bench for the visitors, headed down for Yobo to sky the ball when in space seven yards out, before Wright saved spectacularly from Saha with two minutes remaining.
Taylor, Finnan, Melville, Goma, Harley, Clark, Boa Morte, Malbranque (Hayles 87), Legwinski, Davis, Hammond (Saha 69).
Subs Not Used: Van der Sar, John Collins, Knight.
Stubbs 34 og, Wright 43 og.
Wright, Hibbert (Watson 63), Stubbs, Yobo, Unsworth, Pembridge (Pistone 63), Gravesen, Gemmill (Ferguson 45), Carsley, Campbell, Rooney.
Subs Not Used: Simonsen, Osman.
G Barber (Hertfordshire).