A Harry Winks header in injury time saw Tottenham come from behind to beat relegation-threatened Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Spurs looked set to lose ground on league leaders Liverpool, on a day they lost Dele Alli to injury after he had earlier equalised for the visitors, but Winks stooped low in the 93rd minute to head past Sergio Rico from close range.
Fulham had nine shots on goal in an impressive first half and they took a deserved lead when Tottenham striker Fernando Llorente scored an own goal.
The Spaniard, making his first Premier League start of the season in place of the injured Harry Kane, inadvertently beat Hugo Lloris from close range while attempting to clear the danger inside his own six-yard box after a Jean Michael Seri corner.
The hosts thought they had doubled their lead five minutes before the interval but Aleksandar Mitrovic’s header was ruled out as the Serbian was adjudged to be offside.
However, Spurs responded in the second period and they drew level six minutes after the interval when Alli ghosted in behind the Fulham defence to head a pin-point Christian Eriksen cross past Rico.
And Winks completed the comeback in stoppage time when he stooped low from five yards out to meet substitute Georges-Kevin Nkoudou’s cross and break Fulham’s resistance.
Spurs remain in third after the win, nine points behind Liverpool, while Fulham stay in 19th, seven points from safety.
Spurs find a way despite Kane and Son’s absence
The 50th meeting between these two London clubs saw Tottenham – the side with the best away record in the league – facing the division’s worst defence.
However, Spurs were without their two top goalscorers because of injury (Kane) and international commitments (Son Heung-min), and for 50 minutes, they looked devoid of ideas and opportunities to break down their well-organised opposition.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men had just four shots in the first half which was less than half the number Fulham produced (9).
The man chosen to play instead of talisman Kane made an impact at the wrong end and Son’s replacement, Erik Lamela, only managed one shot at goal in the 79 minutes he was on the field.
Spurs were better after the break as Eriksen’s influence on the game began to grow, but when Llorente had a late chance to make amends for his earlier mistake, his header drifted wide with the game heading for a draw.
BBC Radio 5 live pundit Jermaine Jenas said: “It’s a big, big moment in Spurs’ season. Everything was negative with regards to the players missing but they kept plugging away, they kept getting the ball into the box and it was one of their own in Harry Winks that saved the day today.
“They’ve got a lot of players to patch up and get out there for the next game but that will feel huge.”
Ultimately, two midfielders pulled Spurs out of jail although Alli was replaced in the second half after heading the equaliser, with what looked like a hamstring issue to add further concern for Pochettino.
With Kane not expected to return to the side until March, and Llorente showing signs of rustiness at the Cottage, the Tottenham manager may be forced into the market as their faint tile hopes remain alive.
Babel’s inclusion a cause of optimism for Fulham
Fulham’s debutant winger Ryan Babel looked like he enjoyed his first Premier League start since December 2010, after completing a move from Turkish side Besiktas earlier this week.
The former Liverpool forward showed plenty of encouraging signs for the hosts and he should have scored in the 11th minute when he burst clear of Davinson Sanchez with pace and power, but his left-footed effort was well saved by Lloris.
He then came close to doubling Fulham’s lead while they were in the ascendancy, but his header sailed over the bar after he rose highest to meet Cyrus Christie’s cross.
Babel last played for Besiktas on 22 December and he was replaced after 50 minutes, but the 32-year-old had more shots and played more key passes than any other Fulham player during the whole game.
The Netherlands international gives Claudio Ranieri’s side an option they have not had so far.
Man of the match – Harry Winks (Tottenham)
‘I hope it is not a massive problem’ – what they said
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino to BBC Sport: “It was an unbelievable finish. That’s why it is so important to believe.
“The action is brilliant from Harry Winks, to recover the ball from a difficult position, he believes to score and arrive in the box. It was an amazing cross from Nkoudou.
“Sometimes in football, it is not tactics or formation, you have to believe.
“Some injuries appear in a period with a more busy schedule and another opportunity opens the door for players not consistently in the starting XI or on the bench. It is great opportunity for different players to show quality.”
On Alli’s injury: “It is in the left hamstring, I hope it is not a massive problem, but we will need to assess.”
Fulham boss Claudio Ranieri speaking to BBC Sport:
“In the first half we were fantastic. We scored and should have had a penalty but the referee didn’t give it.
“In the second half we recovered well [from Tottenham’s first goal] but in the end we took a free-kick into the box. Why? We should have taken the ball into the corner.
“It was a lack of experience, but Tottenham have a lot of experience. It was a bad moment for us but we are alive and we will continue to fight.
“The performance was fantastic, but we lost the match just through experience, that’s it. We played well and sooner or later we will find our way.
“We have to continue to believe. Now we have to stay together and I hope other players arrive to help us.”
On Ryan Babel’s debut: “He had a fantastic first half but has come from a winter break so I think in one month he will be ready for 90 minutes.”
Fulham rack up 50 goals against – the stats
- Spurs have won four of their last six Premier League away games in which they’ve conceded first (L2), including on both occasions this season (6-2 v Everton and 2-1 v Fulham).
- Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri suffered his first Premier League defeat against Spurs (W7 D4 L1), in what was his 12th game in the competition against them.
- Fulham are the first team in the top five European Leagues to have conceded 50 goals in league competition this season (51).
- Spurs won a Premier League game without Harry Kane or Son Heung-min for the first time since March 2014 (3-2 v Southampton).
- Since his Premier League debut in August 2015, Dele Alli has been directly involved in 47% of Spurs’ goals in the competition when Harry Kane hasn’t played (7/15 – five goals and two assists).
- No player has scored more headed goals than Spurs midfielder Dele Alli in the Premier League this season (4 – joint-high with Aleksandar Mitrovic).
- Fernando Llorente’s own goal for Spurs was their first in the Premier League since January 21st 2018 (364 days ago), when Davinson Sanchez did so against Southampton.
- Spurs have scored four Premier League own goals against Fulham – against no other side have they scored more (also four v Southampton).
Fulham host Brighton in the Premier League on Tuesday, 29 January (19:45 GMT), while Tottenham face Chelsea in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge on Thursday, 24 January (19:45 GMT).