The brutal reality has hit home now for Nottingham Forest.
Despite spending all that money over the summer, they still look a long way short of being a competitive Premier League outfit.
Results such as that six-goal thrashing at the hands of Manchester City and the home loss to Tottenham are all part of the elite learning curve.
But when you’re tossing away leads to lose to Bournemouth, as they did a fortnight ago, and then surrendering an early advantage here, the alarm bells have to be clanging very loudly.
Fulham centre-back Tosin Adarabioyo headed in the equaliser after 54 minutes
Nottingham Forest (3-4-1-2): Henderson 6; Boly 6 (Lingard 63, 6), Cook 5 (Worrall 63, 6), McKenna 5; Williams 5 (Dennis 88), Yates 6.5, Freuler 6 (O’Brien 70), Lodi 5; Gibbs-White 7; Johnson 6, Awoniyi 7 (Surridge 70, 6)
Substitutes not used: Hennessey (GK); Biancone, Toffolo, Kouyate
Manager: Steve Cooper 5
Scorers: Awoniyi 11; O’Brien 77
Booked: Cook, Boly
Fulham (4-2-3-1): Leno 6; Tete 7, Adarabioyo 7, Diop 6, Ream 6; Reed 7, Palhinha 7.5; WILLIAN 8 (James 69, 6), Pereira 7 (Cairney 83), De Cordova-Reid 7 (Kebano 90); Mitrovic 6.5 (Carlos Vinicius 90)
Substitutes not used: Rodak (GK); Duffy, Mbabu, Harris
Manager: Marco Silva 7
Scorers: Adarabioyo 54; Palhinha 58; Reed 60
Booked: Diop, Tete, Palhinha, Pereira
Referee: Jarred Gillett 6
Despite leading thanks to Taiwo Awoniyi’s header, Forest never looked like converting it into three points that would have been invaluable just before the international pause.
Instead, they were blown away by three Fulham goals in the space of six tumultuous minutes just after half-time to succumb to a fourth straight defeat.
The way Forest were outsmarted and sliced open with embarrassing ease doesn’t bode well for escaping the relegation zone they already inhabit.
But Fulham are absolutely loving top-flight life. They’re sixth in the table this morning, above Chelsea and Liverpool. Who’d have predicted that?
They may finally have cracked it under Marco Silva, looking so much more aggressive and streetwise than after previous promotions.
Having been the better side after Forest’s opener, the dam was breached when Tosin Adarabioyo nodded in from a corner.
Joao Palhinha slammed home a memorable second before Harrison Reed scored his first Fulham goal on his 81st appearance.
Fulham went ahead through Joao Palhinha’s stunning strike in the 57th minute
It was a dizzying few minutes and it silenced a City Ground that had come to believe lessons from their previous games this season had been learned.
Even when Lewis O’Brien reduced the deficit with 13 minutes to play, Fulham battened down the hatches and saw it out.
Their players could be heard afterwards singing Palhinha’s name to that old song Tequila in the away dressing room under the Peter Taylor Stand and Silva can relax a bit in the next fortnight.
But Steve Cooper has much thinking to do. He was bold with his team selection here, dropping captain Joe Worrall, Jesse Lingard and Cheikhou Kouyate.
Midfielder Harrison Reed made it 3-1 with a half volley into the net on the hour mark
He has stunning luxury of choice. When you make 22 summer signings, any poor performance is likely to see you dumped. But does it get you closer to knowing your best XI?
‘It was self-inflicted again, we should look no further than looking at ourselves,’ Cooper said.
‘When we concede, we are not managing the moments after it well enough – whether it’s concentration, a bit of anxiety.
‘If you do that at any level, you can be punished but particularly at this one.
Nottingham Forest led early on when Taiwo Awoniyi headed in a corner in the 11th minute
‘That moment of conceding goals, you need to regroup. It comes with experience together and that’s something we don’t have.’
It had all started so well for Forest. Morgan Gibbs-White swung in a dangerous corner that Ryan Yates, captain for the night, met as he soared over the Fulham defenders.
His header wasn’t directed goalwards but he diverted the ball to the back post where the alert Awoniyi justified Cooper’s decision to start him with a low header.
Fulham were stung by the goal but reacted well. Aleksandar Mitrovic, on his 28th birthday, was a menace as always but in the end didn’t get on the scoresheet.
Lewis O’Brien pulled a goal back for the home side but they could not find an equaliser
Forest’s defenders were too occupied with blocking him off from Willian’s 54th-minute corner, allowing Tosin to take the scenic route to nod into the bottom corner.
Three minutes later, Willian advanced down the right and found Kenny Tete, who had the presence of mind to pick out Palhinha lurking on the edge of the box.
The Portuguese midfielder couldn’t have struck his shot any more sweetly and it screeched into the top corner.
And it got even better for Fulham when Bobby De Cordova-Reid cut back from the left and Reed ended a very long wait with a skimmed finish.
The harsh realty has hit Forest boss Steve Cooper after they were humbled again
O’Brien made things interesting but Forest were undeserving of a late equaliser.
‘We were the best team on the pitch and we deserved the three points,’ said Silva. ‘It was fantastic the way we came back.
‘We knew we had to show personality and we did it.
‘I am really please the way we are playing and matching the opposition sides. But we are humble enough to know we are in the Premier League.’