Match ends, Fulham 2, Aston Villa 0.
Fulham 2-0 Aston Villa
Fulham ended a run of seven consecutive defeats by beating Aston Villa to give head coach Rene Meulensteen his first win in charge of the team.
Steve Sidwell angled a shot in on the stretch to give the home side the lead.
The influential Dimitar Berbatov added a second from the penalty spot after Leandro Bacuna was adjudged to have fouled Alex Kacaniklic.
John Arne Riise's header hit the post for Fulham against a Villa side who might have had a late penalty.
Striker Gabriel Agbonlahor went down following a tackle from Aaron Hughes and Fulham would have been relieved referee Mike Dean saved them from a nervy finish by rejecting the away side's appeals.
Defeat ended Villa's five-game unbeaten run, while the Cottagers celebrated only their second home win of the season in the second game since Meulensteen succeeded Martin Jol last Sunday.
Fulham remain in the bottom three but are now only separated by goal difference from West Ham, who are one place above them.
The change of manager at Craven Cottage appears to have had an instant impact, with Fulham showing a marked improvement in their attitude and application under Meulensteen.
The home side almost took an early lead but Villa keeper Brad Guzan acrobatically palmed a Berbatov header against the woodwork.
The visitors responded with the recalled Christian Benteke, who has gone nine league games without a goal, glancing a header wide and having a low 18-yard shot parried away by keeper Maarten Stekelenburg.
However, the Cottagers were the dominant side and Ashkan Dejagah, who appeared to be offside, stole in behind Villa's defence before Chris Herd recovered to get in a last-ditch tackle. The ball rebounded off Guzan to Kacaniklic and after his initial shot was blocked, his follow-up was cleared off the goal-line by Nathan Baker.
But Fulham's efforts eventually paid off when Berbatov knocked the ball down to Dejagah and he slipped a first-time ball though to Sidwell, who angled in a shot as he fell under pressure from Bacuna.
The second Fulham goal arrived via a more contentious route. Berbatov flicked the ball though to Kacaniklic and, after he went down as he was closed down from behind by Bacuna, Dean signalled a penalty. Berbatov waited for Guzan to dive to his left before nonchalantly putting the spot-kick in the opposite corner.
Riise had a chance to put the game beyond Villa's reach when Guzan missed a Giorgos Karagounis cross, but the left-back's header hit the outside of the post.
And although Villa had that strong late penalty claim turned down, they rarely threatened as Fulham earned their first win since 21 October.
To see a gallery of images from Sunday's Premier League action go to the BBC Sport Facebook page.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert:
"We never deserved to win the game but I'm disappointed at some of the decisions. I thought their penalty wasn't one whereas ours when Gabriel Agbonlahor was brought down was a spot-kick.
"I thought referee Mike Dean's performance was poor. I still don't think we did enough to win the game.
"We never got going but couldn't fault the lads for effort. I'm honest enough to feel we didn't deserve to win."
- 14KaragounisSubstituted forKasamiat 73'minutes
- 11KacaniklicSubstituted forDuffat 77'minutes
- 17HerdBooked at 67minsSubstituted forLowtonat 81'minutes
- 8El AhmadiSubstituted forTonevat 45'minutes
- 16DelphBooked at 19mins
- 20C Benteke
- 10WeimannSubstituted forAlbrightonat 81'minutes
- Mike Dean
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Fulham 2, Aston Villa 0.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Maarten Stekelenburg.
Attempt saved. Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Marc Albrighton.
Foul by John Arne Riise (Fulham).
Marc Albrighton (Aston Villa) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Pajtim Kasami (Fulham) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa).
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Aaron Hughes.
Attempt saved. John Arne Riise (Fulham) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Pajtim Kasami.
Attempt missed. Pajtim Kasami (Fulham) right footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Ashkan Dejagah.
Ashkan Dejagah (Fulham) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Nathan Baker (Aston Villa).
Steve Sidwell (Fulham) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Fabian Delph (Aston Villa).
Attempt saved. Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham) left footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by John Arne Riise.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Marc Albrighton replaces Andreas Weimann.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Matthew Lowton replaces Chris Herd.
Attempt missed. John Arne Riise (Fulham) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Pajtim Kasami.
Substitution, Fulham. Damien Duff replaces Alexander Kacaniklic.
Attempt blocked. John Arne Riise (Fulham) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Steve Sidwell.
Attempt blocked. Aleksandar Tonev (Aston Villa) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Ashley Westwood.
Substitution, Fulham. Pajtim Kasami replaces Giorgos Karagounis.
Foul by Christian Benteke (Aston Villa).
John Arne Riise (Fulham) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Chris Herd (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham).
Attempt blocked. Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Attempt blocked. Andreas Weimann (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Ashley Westwood.
Attempt saved. Ashkan Dejagah (Fulham) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Steve Sidwell.
Hand ball by Christian Benteke (Aston Villa).
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Chris Herd (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Delay in match Giorgos Karagounis (Fulham) because of an injury.
Foul by Chris Herd (Aston Villa).
Giorgos Karagounis (Fulham) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt blocked. Alexander Kacaniklic (Fulham) left footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is blocked.
John Arne Riise (Fulham) hits the left post with a header from a difficult angle on the left. Assisted by Giorgos Karagounis with a cross.
Foul by Nathan Baker (Aston Villa).
Ashkan Dejagah (Fulham) wins a free kick in the defensive half.