A shocking start to life in the Sky Bet Championship led owner Shahid Khan to belatedly wield the axe against unpopular Felix Magath two days ago.
Caretaker manager Kit Symons was charged with leading the rock-bottom Cottagers to a win at the eighth time of asking, but it was not to be as Rovers made the most of their one-man advantage by securing a 1-0 win at Craven Cottage.
Shaun Hutchinson’s sickening first-half challenge on Lee Williamson proved the tipping point in west London, with the Fulham man given a straight red card for a tackle that saw the midfielder taken straight to hospital.
Rovers capitalised on their extra man after a Corry Evans shot fell fortuitously for Rhodes, who directed home the decisive goal on an afternoon which will leave Fulham fans with renewed hope despite another defeat.
Symons made three changes – including Bryan Ruiz’s first Fulham appearance since December – for a match ahead of which the feel-good factor was palpable around the ground.
Gone was the negativity brought by Magath, although the Whites’ defensive problems were still evident – issues that will have made former club captain Brede Hangeland, sitting with fans in the Hammersmith End, wince.
Ben Marshall, Rhodes and Rudy Gestede were all guilty of poor attempts before Fulham rustled up their first shot in the 28th minute, when the otherwise impressive Ruiz blazed over a Fernando Amorebieta cutback.
Symons’ side kicked on for the remainder of the first half and Hugo Rodallega came close with a 25-yard strike, having burst through on goal in a move started by a strong Scott Parker tackle.
Deadline-day signing Jason Steele was fortunate not to ruin his debut with a poor clearance that deflected off the Colombian just wide, before the game took a nasty turn.
As half-time approached Hutchinson launched into an ill-advised, over-zealous challenge on Williamson, leaving the midfielder in a heap.
Referee Andy D’Urso gave a straight red card and, after several minutes of treatment, the Rovers man left the field on a stretcher.
The sending off gave Rovers the upper hand and Gestede’s attempt to find an opener at the start of the second half had to be well saved by Marcus Bettinelli.
Fulham soon had to scramble away a Craig Conway free-kick, before eventually galling behind in the 58th minute.
A hopeful strike from Evans ricocheted off two Fulham players into the path of Rhodes, who prodded home impressively to give Rovers the lead.
Fulham refused to give in, though, and an excellent counter-attack involving Parker and Tim Hoogland would have been turned in by Ross McCormack was it not for a fine Steele save.
Ruiz and Rodallega saw penalty appeals waved away soon after, before Blackburn came close in quick succession as Dan Burn blocked a Rhodes effort after rounding Bettinelli before a Gestede header deflected just wide.
It was rare moment of respite in the closing stages for Blackburn as Fulham pushed for a leveller.
Hoogland fired just wide and McCormack saw an effort blocked as Rovers just held on for victory.