By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter
At Craven Cottage
Fulham 5 (Murphy 51pen; Dempsey 59, 65, 89; Zamora 68pen)
Newcastle United 2 (Guthrie 43, Ben Arfa 85)
Clint Dempsey's second half hat-trick condemned Newcastle United to their first defeat of 2012, as they went down 5-2 away at Fulham.
The Magpies were one up at half-time thanks to Danny Guthrie's screamer, and deservedly so having dominated proceedings. But after the break two penalties - from Danny Murphy and Bobby Zamora - sandwiched either side of a Dempsey brace put the hosts well in control.
Hatem Ben Arfa reduced the deficit as the clock ticked away, but Dempsey put the result beyond any doubt with a minute remaining to seal his treble.
United made a bright start to proceedings, and within 50 seconds fit-again midfielder Yohan Cabaye had tested David Stockdale with a 20-yard strike which was comfortable for the home keeper.
Shola Ameobi was next to go close, leaping above Brede Hangeland to meet Cabaye's left-wing cross, but Stockdale did well to pluck his effort out of the top corner.
The visitors were growing in confidence with every move and their best chance of the opening spell came on 17 minutes through French international Hatem Ben Arfa.
Following great work from Jonas Gutierrez, the forward received the ball just inside Fulham's half and proceeded to waltz through a series of challenges before firing low towards the bottom corner, with Stockdale grateful to pounce on the ball at the second attempt.
On his 250th league appearance for Newcastle, Ameobi was proving to be a menace to the Cottagers' rearguard, and minutes later he arrived at the far post but could only nod a deep Gutierrez cross narrowly over the top.
It took 25 minutes for Fulham to muster their first opening, and came from the boot of former Magpies winger Duff. Having scored the winner in this fixture last season, Duff chased what looked to be a lost cause into the left-hand corner, before turning Cabaye inside-out, cutting inside and curling a right-footed effort into the arms of Tim Krul.
But it was soon normal service resumed as the visitors went back on the attack, and United's centre-back pairing almost provided the breakthrough that they deserved.
As Fulham failed to clear a corner properly, Mike Williamson popped up on the right wing and his cross was turned goalwards by Coloccini, only for the Argentine's close-range volley to be smothered by Stockdale.
The hosts' stopper was keeping his side in the contest and four minutes before the break got down well to tip Ameobi's low drive behind for a corner, but he could do nothing to stop Guthrie breaking the deadlock almost immediately after.
Bryan Ruiz lost possession deep in his own half, and Ben Arfa fed Guthrie, who took a touch before firing an unstoppable drive past the despairing dive of Stockdale as the ball flew into the top corner.
Fulham made a tactical switch at the break - replacining Ruiz with Chris Baird - and they looked to make an instant impression as Duff lashed wide from distance.
And they got their reward in the 51st minute. A long ball over the top saw Duff get in front of Davide Santon, and the full-back bundled him over. Referee Lee Mason took a while to decide if the offence occurred inside the box or not, and having awarded a spot kick, captain Danny Murphy made no mistake in sending Krul the wrong way.
Fulham looked rejuvenated, and it took a fine stop from Krul to prevent Bobby Zamora from drilling the hosts ahead moments later.
But the keeper was helpless as they edged ahead on 59 minutes. Substitute Andrew Johnson raced from the halfway line and played in Zamora, who turned Coloccini inside the box and then drew a save from Krul. However, the ball fell perfectly into the path of Clint Dempsey, who bundled into the unguarded net from a couple of yards out.
And it was 3-1 just just six minutes later, as Fulham ripped through the heart of Newcastle's defence. When a ball was played up to Johnson, he headed cleverly into the path of Zamora, who immediately slipped in Dempsey.
And the American international was not going to pass up that opportunity as he duly slotted home.
Things were going from bad to worse and in the 68th minute Johnson's pace forced another penalty for the home side. The striker burst past Williamson inside the box and managed to stay on his feet, but then tumbled under Krul's subsequent challenge, with Mr Mason having no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Zamora did the rest, drilling the spot-kick past the Dutch keeper, who was booked for his part in the incident.
Newcastle tried to respond and Ameobi had the ball in the back of the net, only to see the assistant's flag correctly rule it out after the striker strayed a yard offside.
Gutierrez tried his luck from 25 yards, firing into the body of Stockdale, before Ben Arfa struck a late consolation with five minutes remaining. Having picked up the ball on the right touchline, he strode inside before drilling home at the near post.
That looked to be it, but Dempsey had other ideas and took home the matchball after out-pacing United's back line and finishing past Krul.
Fulham (4-3-3): David Stockdale; Stephen Kelly, Brede Hangeland, Philippe Senderos, John Arne Riise; Steve Sidwell (Andrew Johnson 37), Danny Murphy (c), Clint Dempsey (Kerim Frei 90); Damien Duff, Bobby Zamora, Bryan Ruiz (Chris Baird 46)
Subs not used: Neil Etheridge, Matthew Briggs, Aaron Hughes, Marcel Gecov
Newcastle United (4-2-3-1): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon; Yohan Cabaye (Dan Gosling 83), Danny Guthrie (James Perch 76), Hatem Ben Arfa, Jonas Gutierrez, Leon Best (Ryan Taylor 85); Shola Ameobi
Subs not used: Rob Elliot, Shane Ferguson, Gabriel Obertan, Peter Lovenkrands
Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)