Moussa Dembele was sent off as Wisla Krakow handed Fulham their first defeat in Europa League Group K.
David Biton scored from 20 yards after the hour to put the hosts ahead when the Fulham defence backed off.
It looked inevitable after a succession of chances and Dembele's harsh dismissal on 30 minutes for a push on Gervasio Nunez.
Wisla were also reduced to 10 men when Osman Chavez received a second booking, but Fulham's late rally was fruitless.
Chavez's red card came after he clattered into the back of Andy Johnson, something he made a habit of during a lively atmosphere in the Miejski Stadium.
And it was in contrast to Dembele's soft sending off, as the Belgian pushed Nunez on the shoulder despite the Argentine clutching his face.
It capped a frustrating night for Martin Jol's side, who did well to weather long periods of pressure, and had Orlando Sa withdraw with a hamstring injury
But they will be disappointed to hand Wisla their first points of the campaign, on an evening where several of their top names were rested.
After making a literal impression on Brede Hangeland's chest, Ivica Iliev was Wisla's most dangerous player in the first period and was close to opening the scoring on several occasions.
The Serb striker hit the bar when Hangeland deflected his effort over goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer and he fired wide from his best opportunity after turning Stephen Kelly inside out.
Jol rested Bobby Zamora and Clint Dempsey, while Danny Murphy was out with a knee problem and, although the visitors did get behind Wisla once or twice, they rarely tested home keeper Sergei Pareiko.
Damien Duff shot straight at him early on, and Dembele had a great chance after he was put through on the right by Dickson Etuhu, but the Belgian's shot was too close to the keeper.
As the game began to settle it was out of the blue that Dembele received his marching orders.
There seemed to be some contact as Nunez brushed past the Fulham attacker but, though Dembele did push his opponent in retaliation, there was little need for the Wisla player to hit the floor clutching his face.
Dembele was rightly furious as he left the field but the hosts did little to press the advantage before the break and any hopes of making a fast start to the second period were ended when a floodlight failure delayed the resumption by 12 minutes.
Before facing Fulham, Wisla had lost both this season's Europa League games against Odense and FC Twente, and before the hour mark they did not look like testing Fulham further.
Their numerical advantage soon counted, however, as Fulham backed off allowing Wisla's top scorer Biton to pick the ball up in the centre of the pitch and fire past Schwarzer.
That goal re-invigorated the home supporters, who were in fine voice all evening, and it was also a cue for a surge in the team's confidence as Andraz Kirm also shot from distance.
Steve Sidwell added some urgency to Fulham after he came off the bench and, although Chavez made it a nervy ending for the hosts when he saw red, they held on for their first European points of the season.
Fulham boss Martin Jol: "Of course we would never complain about the red card but it was a push on the shoulder. After being kicked. He made a meal of it.
"Referees make decisions but I would say that in the first minute one of my players was kicked and it should have been a red card. There were three other fouls but we didn't complain."