Elijah Adebayo scored a second-half equaliser as Luton held his former side Fulham to a 1-1 draw to deny the Championship leaders from taking advantage of defeat for second-placed Bournemouth.
Despite the result, the draw saw the Cottagers extend their lead at the top of the Championship table to two points over the Cherries, who lost at home to Blackburn.
Joe Bryan went close for the visitors after seven minutes, letting fly from 25 yards before his effort arrowed inches past the far post with goalkeeper James Shea beaten.
Fulham were ahead after 19 minutes though with a goal of real simplicity. Bryan’s deep free-kick was met by the unmarked Tosin Adarabioyo at the far post and, when his header was cleared off the line by Sonny Bradley, top scorer Aleksander Mitrovic was there to tap home his 22nd goal of the campaign.
With the visitors looking in control, Town did finally try to knock them out of their stride as they created some dangerous moments. The recalled Admiral Muskwe fired into the side-netting after cutting in from the right-hand side.
After the break, Luton maintained their spell of pressure in what was an absorbing contest, Muskwe breaking into the box after a neat turn but when making some space, he sliced the ball wide.
Hatters’ top scorer Adebayo, a former youth player at Fulham, then went for goal when others were in better positions but he saw his low shot blocked, while the striker was denied at the back post by a covering header from Reece Burke’s dangerous cross.
Fulham still featured as an attacking threat though as Harry Wilson blasted an effort over the crossbar from a decent position, while Neeskens Kebano curled a hopeful attempt straight at Shea.
However, Luton did get the goal their efforts deserved and – like Fulham’s – it came from a free-kick after 62 minutes.
Full-back James Bree swung an excellent delivery into the area and Adebayo was there to power his diving header beyond Marek Rodak and make it 1-1 with his 10th goal of the season.
Fulham upped the ante as they looked to retake the lead, almost breaking through when a corner caused havoc before Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu made it safe and Tim Ream’s header forced Shea into a fine diving stop.
The Luton goalkeeper also displayed confident handling when Wilson had another crack at his goal, gathering the ball well at his near post.
The Hatters were not without chances of their own in the final stages as Mpanzu slid in to win the ball back and he found Adebayo, whose turn was shut down by Rodak sliding out to gather it.
The hosts almost won it in sensational fashion as Kal Naismith beat four players to find Bree, who drilled wide.
Cottagers substitute Rodrigo Muniz turned his man and shot straight at Shea, before Fred Onyedinma had calls for a penalty denied after going down under a challenge from Bryan as Town picked up a point.
What the managers said…
Luton’s Nathan Jones: “They have slightly more quality than us because they’re probably [on a] £100million a year budget, so they probably have a little bit more composure and a little bit more quality. If we had just a bit more of that, we would have won the game today. But to go up against, and they are the best side in the league, let’s be honest. They’re top of the league for a reason because they are the best side in the league.
“So for us to get toe-to-toe with them just shows the great place we’re in because we don’t sit back, we show respect but no fear and that’s what I’m proud of today. Their goal is offside and we should have had a penalty – it’s absolutely nailed on the video. I can understand why they haven’t given it as I might not want to give a pen against the league leaders at little old Kenilworth Road in that time. But it’s a pen, it’s an absolute pen, but that takes away from the level of performance we showed today.”
Fulham’s Marco Silva: “It was a tough game for us. It’s always tough to play here, we knew it would be. [They are a] physical team. We know the way they like to play, they do everything and after they fight for the first and second balls, they are strong in that moment. I think we controlled all the first half with the ball, the way we want to do, not creating many chances, not creating the chances we should create, but of course, we scored on a set-piece and after that, we controlled the game.
“Second half, it started a little bit in our way but then we started to lose many balls. We gave a chance to them and they started to believe and – in that one moment – we switched off and they scored from one set-piece. What we did after it was 1-1, we should have done before because we tried to get the second and we should have done that with the game 1-0, not at 1-1. We tried, we had some dangerous moments, we started to push them back, but unfortunately we didn’t score the second goal and we lost the points.”