Wayne Rooney's 29th goal of the season helped Manchester United move back to the top of the Premier League, opening up a three-point gap over rivals City.
Rooney converted a Jonny Evans cut back just before the break to seal victory over a determined Fulham side.
Ashley Young had several chances to double United's lead but found Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer in fine form.
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2 Apr/31 Mar
West Brom (h)
Aston Villa (h)
Man City (a)
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And late on Fulham should have been awarded a penalty when Michael Carrick tripped Danny Murphy in the box.
The result means United take advantage of Manchester City's slip up against Stoke City on Saturday and with eight games to go are in pole position to retain their title.
United started the day level on points with their neighbours City, but with an inferior goal difference.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson challenged his side to use their game in hand to pull away from Manchester City as well as reduce their goal-difference deficit, admitting it could be an "issue" at the end of the season.
And the opening 10 minutes suggested that United were likely to do both, with Ferguson's side dominating possession and controlling the game.
But United could only muster one decent chance with Ryan Giggs heading Rafael's cross straight at Schwarzer.
Fulham then came into the game with the visitors playing with more urgency and energy than United, who were unusually sloppy with their passing in front of a subdued atmosphere at Old Trafford.
Moussa Dembele and Mahamadou Diarra seemed to have the better of Carrick and Giggs in central midfield and Fulham attacker Clint Dempsey tested David de Gea from 20 yards.
But with the game heading for a turgid stalemate at the break, United sprang in to life to take the lead, much to the relief of the Old Trafford faithful.
It came from Rooney, who smashed home from close range following Evans' cut back after Fulham had failed to clear Young's whipped cross from the left.
United almost doubled their lead after the break with the lively Antonio Valencia latching on to Giggs' delightful ball over the top, but Schwarzer was equal to the Ecuadorian's strike.
Schwarzer was again called into action shortly after, tipping Young's right-footed curling effort from the left round the post.
Young saw two successive efforts superbly saved by Schwarzer before Giggs' goal-bound effort was blocked by Brede Hangeland.
But this was largely a flat display from United, who failed to take the opportunity to reduce the goal difference deficit - something that could come back to haunt them at the end of the season.
And in actual fact United were lucky not to concede a penalty in the 87th minute when Carrick clearly tripped substitute Murphy inside the box.
But referee Michael Oliver waved away their appeals and United hung on for a nervy victory.
The result means Fulham remain in 13th place but, having been humbled 5-0 by United earlier in the season, Cottagers boss Martin Jol will have been hugely encouraged by his side's display.
United next travel to Blackburn two days after Manchester City host Sunderland.
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The final whistle is blown by the referee.90:00 +2:03
Foul by Bryan Ruiz on Ashley Young, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by David De Gea.90:00 +1:34
Unfair challenge on Damien Duff by Rafael Da Silva results in a free kick. Danny Murphy delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from left wing, Michael Carrick makes a clearance.90:00 +0:25
Javier Hernandez challenges Aaron Hughes unfairly and gives away a free kick. Mark Schwarzer takes the free kick.88:55
Ashley Young fouled by Aaron Hughes, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Patrice Evra.86:01
Javier Hernandez is ruled offside. Brede Hangeland restarts play with the free kick.85:08
The ball is swung over by Javier Hernandez, clearance made by Aaron Hughes.83:25
Paul Scholes challenges Clint Dempsey unfairly and gives away a free kick. Danny Murphy crosses the ball in from the free kick.81:22
Unfair challenge on Bryan Ruiz by Patrice Evra results in a free kick. Bryan Ruiz restarts play with the free kick.77:56 Substitution
Substitution Paul Scholes on for Wayne Rooney.74:36
Ryan Giggs takes a shot. Blocked by Brede Hangeland.74:28
Ashley Young takes a shot. Mark Schwarzer makes a save.74:20
Ashley Young takes a shot. Mark Schwarzer makes a save.73:05
Danny Murphy takes the direct free kick.73:05 Substitution
Substitution Rio Ferdinand leaves the field to be replaced by Chris Smalling.73:05
Foul by Jonathan Evans on Bryan Ruiz, free kick awarded.71:45
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on John Arne Riise by Antonio Valencia. Free kick taken by John Arne Riise.70:58 Substitution
Substitution Danny Murphy joins the action as a substitute, replacing Mahamadou Diarra.68:12
Ryan Giggs produces a left-footed shot from just outside the box that misses to the right of the net.68:06
Wayne Rooney takes a shot. Blocked by Aaron Hughes.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Moussa Dembele on Ashley Young. Patrice Evra takes the free kick.67:21
Ashley Young takes a shot. Moussa Dembele gets a block in.66:09
Brede Hangeland takes the free kick.66:09 Substitution
Substitution Bryan Ruiz is brought on as a substitute for Kerim Frei.66:09
Free kick awarded for a foul by Antonio Valencia on Moussa Dembele.62:26 Substitution
Substitution Javier Hernandez comes on in place of Danny Welbeck.60:31
Ryan Giggs gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Mahamadou Diarra. Mark Schwarzer restarts play with the free kick.56:49
Free kick awarded for a foul by Rio Ferdinand on Pavel Pogrebnyak. Mahamadou Diarra restarts play with the free kick.56:08
Danny Welbeck takes a shot. Blocked by Brede Hangeland.53:51
Corner taken short by Antonio Valencia.53:02
Antonio Valencia decides to take the corner short.52:52
Ashley Young takes a shot. Save by Mark Schwarzer.49:23
Stephen Kelly concedes a free kick for a foul on Ashley Young. Michael Carrick takes the free kick.48:06
Wayne Rooney produces a right-footed shot from outside the penalty box and misses wide left of the target.47:52
Corner taken short by Wayne Rooney.47:08
Short corner taken by Ryan Giggs.46:59
Antonio Valencia takes a shot. Save by Mark Schwarzer.45:35
Stephen Kelly sends in a cross, David De Gea makes a save.45:01
The second half begins.45:00 +2:05 Half time
Half Time The players leave the pitch at half time.45:00 +1:29
Clint Dempsey takes a shot. Rio Ferdinand gets a block in.45:00 +0:10
The referee blows for offside. Indirect free kick taken by Mark Schwarzer.44:59
The ball is delivered by Antonio Valencia, clearance by Moussa Dembele.43:50
Foul by Ashley Young on Damien Duff, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Aaron Hughes.43:35
The ball is sent over by Wayne Rooney, save made by Mark Schwarzer.41:09
Assist on the goal came from Jonathan Evans.41:09 Goal scored
Goal! - Wayne Rooney - Man Utd 1 - 0 Fulham Wayne Rooney finds the net with a goal from close range to the top right corner of the goal. Man Utd 1-0 Fulham.40:25
Corner taken right-footed by Ashley Young to the near post, clearance made by Clint Dempsey.35:41
Danny Welbeck takes a shot. Mark Schwarzer makes a save.33:53
Mahamadou Diarra takes the free kick.33:53 Booking
Booking Ryan Giggs is booked.33:50
Foul by Ryan Giggs on Moussa Dembele, free kick awarded.33:17
Jonathan Evans concedes a free kick for a foul on Pavel Pogrebnyak. Mahamadou Diarra takes the direct free kick.32:25
Rafael Da Silva takes a shot. Save made by Mark Schwarzer.30:47
Shot by Patrice Evra from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the goal.30:03
Short corner worked by Ashley Young.29:22
Michael Carrick concedes a free kick for a foul on Pavel Pogrebnyak. Free kick taken by Moussa Dembele.28:03
Antonio Valencia takes a shot. Blocked by John Arne Riise.27:52
The ball is crossed by Ashley Young, save by Mark Schwarzer.26:04
Free kick awarded for a foul by Stephen Kelly on Ashley Young. Ashley Young takes the direct free kick.25:02
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Ashley Young from the left by-line to the near post, Clint Dempsey makes a clearance.24:13
Free kick awarded for a foul by Antonio Valencia on Kerim Frei. Kerim Frei takes the free kick.23:02
Clint Dempsey takes a shot. Save made by David De Gea.21:24
Michael Carrick concedes a free kick for a foul on Clint Dempsey. Free kick taken by Moussa Dembele.20:56
Ashley Young takes a shot. Aaron Hughes gets a block in.19:33
Clint Dempsey takes a shot. Save by David De Gea.16:47
Shot from just outside the penalty box by Moussa Dembele misses to the left of the target.15:32
Ashley Young delivers the ball, save by Mark Schwarzer.13:00
Corner taken left-footed by Damien Duff.12:48
Clint Dempsey takes a shot. Michael Carrick gets a block in.11:34
Danny Welbeck takes a shot. Blocked by Brede Hangeland.10:25
Rafael Da Silva crosses the ball, Ryan Giggs takes a shot. Save by Mark Schwarzer.7:09
Wayne Rooney takes a shot. Brede Hangeland gets a block in.3:20
Patrice Evra gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Damien Duff. Stephen Kelly takes the direct free kick.2:49
Rafael Da Silva concedes a free kick for a foul on Kerim Frei. John Arne Riise takes the free kick.2:04
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Michael Carrick by Clint Dempsey. Michael Carrick takes the free kick.0:00
The match gets underway.
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