Middlesbrough moved a point off top place in the Championship table with a convincing victory against Fulham.
Albert Adomah gave Boro the lead early on, heading in Stewart Downing’s cross.
The goal set the tone for an energetic away display full of quality and they deservedly made it 2-0 against lacklustre opposition at the break through Grant Leadbitter’s penalty.
Fulham improved but rarely threatened and their slim hopes were ended when Richard Stearman was sent off late on.
Stearman’s dismissal, for bringing down substitute Jordan Rhodes with three minutes remaining, made little difference to a result that sees the west Londoners drop to 20th in the table.
Middlesbrough stay third after Burnley fought back to beat Bolton, but there is now only one point between the top three and Boro have two games in hand on the Clarets and one game in hand on second-placed Hull City.
An away win seemed inevitable as Boro were 2-0 up inside 20 minutes, through Adomah’s well-controlled header and Leadbitter’s low spot-kick, after David Nugent was fouled by Chris Baird.
But for all their first-half dominance, Fulham twice went close to scoring just before being booed off at the break.
Moussa Dembele, who replaced the injured Ryan Fredericks after 22 minutes, tested keeper Dimi Konstantopolous with an overhead kick and Madl’s header was somehow cleared off the line by Ritchie de Laet.
The visitors continued to control things after the interval, with Adomah, Emilio Nsue and Downing all going close against a Fulham team who have now won just three times in 21 matches.
Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka:
“Sometimes when we score one goal we have problems scoring the second one. Today we scored two goals quickly and after that the game became easier.
“If we were to win every single game by 2-0, it would not be a problem for me. I know we are going to score goals because we have a lot of good players.
“Adomah played the same game as he did last Tuesday, and when he plays like that he’s one of the best in the league.”
Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic:
“We tried to be more aggressive. We made a few chances but they were more solid generally and more organised. They deserved their three points.
“For the sending-off, possibly he was the last player and I don’t know whether he was in a dangerous area.
“It meant that we could not push on for the last few minutes, because we made the important mistakes at the beginning of the game.
“The result is bad, it’s very clear, and we did not make a good performance. We are inconsistent – some days we do a good job and some days we don’t.”