"Who needs Zamora when you've got the Pog?" was the inventive chant of the Hammersmith End as our new Russian striker opened his account at Craven Cottage. It was an interesting debate to enter - even though it was probably created with rhetoric in mind. Once he had left the fray with an injury-induced exit in the second half, Fulham became a sterile unit incapable of creativity. They were already missing their new number seven in a way that Queens Park Rangers' new signing can only dream of.
And so the post-Bobby era truly began. It was a statistically sound entry into new territory but the 2-1 scoreline did little justice to how tense the last few minutes were. As Pavel Pogrebyak left the the field, Stoke pushed forward and Jol's men couldn't muster anything resembling an innovation in the middle of the park. Pulis' side continued to push right up to the death but the home side and their new forward had the last laugh in the end.
The game began tentatively for Fulham who appeared somewhat weary of going beyond enemy lines. Matthew Upson gave Murphy a reason not to, tackling the captain firmly yet fairly.
It took a while for the game to settle but when it did, the Whites were the ones to benefit. John Arne Riise had a shot from long range but the effort was tame and was halted by Pogrebnyak. He turned and finished astutely, with Sorensen giving up on a shot that ended in the top left hand corner.
Pulis' men attempted to respond immediately but a Kenwyne Jones strike that went out for a throwing epitomised their early efforts.
Thomas Sorensen then showed Jones how it's done with an unfortunate own goal. Clint Dempsey struck the ball with superb venom from around 30 yards, only for it to hit the underside of the bar and then the back of Sorensen before rolling into the net. Fulham were playing well and were deserving of their 2-0 lead.
A Marc Wilson foul gave Danny Murphy the opportunity to put the game beyond doubt with a free kick on the edge of the area. Murphy struck the ball well but it travelled just past the post.
The second half began as a tepid affair but ended on a contrasting note. Neither goalkeeper was tested in the early stages and it was Pogrebnyak's removal that changed the tide of the pressure.
Simon Davies replaced him and, once again, Fulham were without a recognised striker. The Potters reacted accordingly and three quick fire changes put the game back into the balance. Ricardo Fuller was the most popular player to come on, judging by the away fans' reaction. It was his blocked shot that led to the corner from which their solitary goal came.
Ryan Shawcross was the man who placed a header past Mark Schwarzer and suddenly Fulham became jittery and appeared to panic.
Peter Crouch nearly exploited what was now a frantically organised back line, but he fired over from a good position. The away side continued to dominate but it was a Dempsey break away that concluded the game. Sorensen's luck was such that the ball managed to round him in the dying seconds of the 5 minutes of extra time and when Dempsey tried to apply a finish from a tight angle, only the post denied him. The home support rued the miss but were cheering moments later as the final whistle went.
Who needs Zamora when you've got the Pog?