Cardiff, United Kingdom – Cardiff defender Steven Caulker improved his side's prospects of avoiding relegation from the Premier League as his brace clinched a crucial 3-1 win over fellow strugglers Fulham on Saturday.
Caulker ended a Cardiff goal drought that had stretched to over 400 minutes in the league when he netted just before half-time in south Wales.
On-loan Tottenham midfielder Lewis Holtby equalised for Fulham, but Caulker struck again before a Sascha Riether own goal ensured the end of Cardiff's five-match winless run.
Cardiff remain in the relegation zone on goal difference, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side will feel more optimistic about their survival chances after just their second league win since the former Manchester United striker took charge in January.
In contrast, Fulham's dismal display left them rooted to the bottom of the table after their 20th defeat in 29 league matches.
With his team in desperate need of a morale-boosting win, Solskjaer handed a start to Kenwyne Jones and recalled Craig Noone and Jordan Mutch.
Felix Magath gave a first start to Fulham's record signing Kostas Mitroglou after the Greek forward was finally deemed fit enough to feature and there was also a surprise Fulham debut for young forward Cauley Woodrow.
Cardiff started brightly and striker Fraizer Campbell weaved through a pack of Fulham defenders to draw a full-stretch save from Maarten Stekelenburg from the edge of the area.
The Bluebirds threatened again when Noone evaded challenges from Steve Sidwell and Brede Hangeland before shooting narrowly wide from 20 yards.
After dominating for much of the half, Cardiff finally broke the deadlock in the 45th minute when Noone's low cross reached captain Caulker, who had the simple task of slotting home from no more than two yards out.
It was Caulker's third goal of the season and the previous two had both come in victories, including a rare away-day win at Fulham.
Fulham needed a stronger showing in the second half and Holtby led the charge with a volley that brought David Marshall into action.
Magath's team equalised in the 59th minute when a corner from substitute Giorgos Karagounis was flicked on by Johnny Heitinga and Holtby tapped in for the first goal of his loan spell with the Cottagers.
But the visitors weren't on level terms for long as Caulker rose to meet a corner and directed a downwards header past Stekelenburg's weak attempted save in the 67th minute.
The decisive third goal arrived four minutes later when Noone's cross caused havoc in the Fulham defence and Riether deflected into his own net. – Sapa-AFP