Six goals were shared in a wide open first half between Southampton Under-23s and their Fulham counterparts, but it was a solitary second-half strike that decided the game in favour of the visitors at Staplewood.
Saints found themselves 2-0 and 3-1 down, but Nathan Tella pulled one back and was involved in both of the other goals – two poacher’s efforts from Marcus Barnes.
However, Fulham had the final say to earn three points in Premier League 2, as the impressive Jordan Graham set up Mikolaj Kwietniewski for the winner with 13 minutes left.
Radhi Jaïdi could call upon an experienced core, with Alex McCarthy behind a back four of Jérémy Pied, Jan Bednarek, Jack Stephens and Matt Targett.
James Ward-Prowse captained the side, while Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Sam McQueen were also in from the start.
But Saints would have to recover from a difficult opening, as Graham pounced to score on the rebound after McCarthy made a brilliant instinctive save with his foot from a Fulham corner.
Saints were enjoying the majority of the play, but would find themselves with a steeper uphill climb, as Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson hung up a cross to the far post for towering centre-forward Elijah Adebayo to nod in from close range.
Things would go from bad to worse when Jaïdi lost Targett to injury in the 20th minute, though the left-back did leave the pitch on his feet suggesting it may have just been a precaution.
Saints’ luck was about to change, as they halved the deficit and took charge of the game.
After Jake Hesketh was denied by Norman, the midfielder found the right weight of pass to find Tella in the box, who slotted home.
Suddenly it was wave after wave of Saints attack, and Barnes might have equalised when he latched on to McQueen’s ball over the top and got there before the stranded Norman, only to steer the chance wide.
Fulham had been penned in, but when they escaped into the Saints half they made it count, as Graham’s square pass was dispatched by Adebayo, albeit in fortuitous fashion as his miss-hit shot deceived McCarthy and looped into the corner of the net.
Back came Southampton in an incredibly open game, and within eight minutes the hosts were level courtesy of Barnes’ brace.
The lively Tella was involved in both; first crossing from the right to substitute Jonathan Afolabi, whose cutback was tapped in by Barnes, before the striker latched on to Tella’s threaded pass to prod his second past Norman.
Unsurprisingly, there was a more controlled feel about the second half after a manic first 45.
Fulham threatened to retake the lead through Steven Sessegnon – twin brother of highly-rated first teamer Ryan – who shot into the sidenetting, before Thorsteinsson overran the ball with only McCarthy to beat.
Saints’ best moment came courtesy of a sharp turn from Barnes, who made space to shoot from 25 yards and stung the gloves of Norman.
Fulham’s most dangerous player had been the talented Graham, who thought he’d scored the goal of the game 18 minutes from time.
Receiving the ball wide on the left, he stepped inside and curled a stunning strike into the top corner that dipped just underneath the crossbar.
But Graham’s luck was out, as the offside flag intervened. He received the ball well onside, but must have strayed before the crossfield ball to him was played.
The on-loan Wolves man would not be denied, as his enticing cross was tucked in by Kwietniewski 13 minutes from time.
Line ups not available