Spurs survived a second-half onslaught to deny Fulham manager Martin Jol a satisfying league victory over his former club.
Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon struck to give Spurs a commanding interval lead in a lively London derby, but they were over-run when play resumed.
Fulham dominated with Younes Kaboul's 57th-minute own-goal the direct result of relentless pressure from the rampant home side.
But despite their overwhelming superiority, the Cottagers were unable to secure the equaliser after failing to convert a series of chances.
Controversy reigned during a chaotic five-minute spell of injury time when Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker clearly handled the ball, but referee Peter Walton declined to award a penalty.
To rub salt into the wound, substitute Jermain Defoe scored with virtually the last kick of the game.
Jol will have felt the disappointment more than anyone as he oversaw his first encounter against his former paymasters since leaving White Hart Lane in acrimonious circumstances three years ago.
The victory was Spurs' seventh in eight games and places them on the cusp of the Champions League spots with only goal difference separating them from fourth-placed Chelsea.
Harry Redknapp, watching from home as he continues his recovery from a heart procedure, will be content with the three points but this was not the Tottenham that dazzled against QPR last weekend.
The starting line-up may have been identical, but today they rode their luck like never before to stay snapping at the heals of the top four.
Just two minutes into the match Brad Friedel, who was superb throughout, was forced to display lightening reflexes to deny Fulham.
A corner by Danny Murphy was met by the onrushing Steve Sidwell only for his glancing header to be kept out on the line by Friedel.
The pace was frantic and Mark Schwarzer had to punch the ball to safety as slick passing from Tottenham swept them deep into Fulham's half.
Both teams attacked with vigour but Spurs were more dynamic and they surged ahead in the 10th minute through a goal from Gareth Bale.
Lennon threaded a dangerous pass across goal which Schwarzer pushed to the side of the area where Bale was stationed.
The Wales international drilled the ball back across goal and it was deflected into the next by helpless Fulham defender Chris Baird.
Scott Parker required treatment after taking an accidental elbow from Sidwell on his nose, which was left bloody.
Spurs' defence was caught napping when Sidwell slipped a pass to Clint Dempsey but the American failed to connect cleanly on a glorious chance and Friedel saved.
Just as an increasingly lifeless first half entered injury-time, Tottenham struck for a second time through Lennon.
The England winger jinked his way into the area, skipping around Baird in the process, and directed a shot into the bottom right corner of the net a heartbeat before two Fulham players came sliding in.
The Cottagers then endured further misery when Zdenek Grygera had to be stretchered from the pitch after appearing to injury his right knee while making a routine tackle on Bale.
Excellent link up play between Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor, who was enduring a quiet afternoon, concluded with the Welshman failing to seriously test Schwarzer.
Brede Hangeland saw a goalbound header tipped over by Friedel and moments later Kaboul nearly nodded a shot by Bobby Zamora into his own net.
However, Kaboul succeeded in beating his own keeper in the 57th minute as rampant Fulham deservedly hit back.
Hangeland jumped to meet a corner and his presence disrupted Tottenham's defence with Ledley King nodding the ball against Kaboul's back and into the goal.
Fulham's dominance continued as they poured forward in search of the equaliser, the hapless Kaboul conceding a free kick that Baird smashed at Friedel.
Only last-gasp intervention from King prevented Dempsey supplying the equaliser after the USA midfielder had rounded Friedel.
Once more Friedel came to the rescue, this time after Zamora had expertly timed his run into the box to outfox King.
Greater drama was to follow during injury time as first Kyle Walker handled the ball during a frantic goalmouth scramble, an offence that went unpunished, and then Luka Modric cleared a late effort off the line.
Fulham then suffered the cruel blow of seeing Defoe prod home to end an action-packed encounter.