Claudio Ranieri declared Fulham's chances of Premier League survival "alive" after a stunning 4-2 comeback win at home to Brighton and Hove Albion.
Glenn Murray struck twice in the opening 17 minutes to leave Fulham looking down and out, but Ranieri's tinkering turned the game back in his side's favour.
Tim Ream was sacrificed midway through the first half, Ranieri having seen enough of defensive disarray from his back five, with the introduction of Tom Cairney allowing him to switch to a flat four.
Luciano Vietto then replaced Andre Schurrle at half-time, but it was Aleksandar Mitrovic who provided the spark of inspiration, setting up Calum Chambers for a fine volley in the 47th minute.
Mitrovic then showed his desire to beat Brighton's static defence to a high ball, heading in the leveller, and he rose in the box to thump home Joe Bryan's left-wing cross to put Fulham in front.
9 - Aleksandar Mitrovic has scored his ninth Premier League goal of 2018-19, equalling his previous best tally within a season in the competition (nine in 2015-16 with Newcastle). Leveller. pic.twitter.com/B25Y9TAVZA— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 29, 2019
Vietto struck his first Premier League goal to wrap up a wonderful comeback that left Ranieri hoping 19th-placed Fulham can make up a five-point gap to safety.
"It means we are alive," Ranieri told a news conference after a breathless encounter at a snowy Craven Cottage.
"It's a little step but that means we are alive and it's very important. I want to see this fighting spirit again. For us all the matches are tough.
"It was a very strange match. We were down after the 17th minute, 2-0, but believe me, in that moment I said it's much better [to be behind] at the beginning. We reacted and Chambers' goal gave us more confidence. We deserved to win.
"Tonight we gave some good balls to Mitrovic. He is very dangerous with the crosses into the box. It's important to deliver the ball and the assist to Calum was great.
"We believe always, but I tell to my players: Enjoy, but tomorrow morning we restart."
6 - Only Mohamed Salah (9) has scored the opening goal in more @premierleague games this season than Brighton's Glenn Murray (6). Rapid. pic.twitter.com/KBBS4JFgRm— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 29, 2019
Hughton was left frustrated by missed opportunities after seeing his side collapse to a mystifying loss, Brighton now having won only one of their past nine Premier League games.
"As good as we were in the first half, that’s how bad we were in the second half," the Brighton boss said.
"I thought we had chances to extend our lead – even at 2-1 – but as soon as they make it 2-2 life becomes very difficult for us.
"They can be a handful in that final third if you allow them that space and time that we did.
"It's a shame that after such a good first-half performance, we couldn't continue like that in the second half."
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