WHAT was all the fuss about? Leeds United confidently strolled to a 2-0 home victory over Fulham to virtually guarantee their top flight safety last night.

Relegation pressure was eased by Mark Viduka's double and means that West Ham's Premiership bubble is all but burst.

It will need an extraordinary set of results to see the Hammers survive now as Leeds pulled six points clear of them with three games remaining.

Mathematically, Leeds can still go down but can put any lingering doubts to bed if they beat Blackburn Rovers at Elland Road on Saturday.

Rovers will surely provide a far sterner test than feeble Fulham who, like Leeds, have flirted with the drop but should have just enough points in the bank.

United never looked back from the fourth minute when Gary Kelly's quickly-taken outswinging corner from the right was thundered in by Viduka's forehead.

It was the perfect response to the verbal blasting they received from caretaker-manager Peter Reid after their capitulation at Southampton on Saturday.

They worked and grafted as a team, denying Fulham the time and space to get the ball down and play. Shots by Jason Wilcox and Harry Kewell went close to adding to United's lead as they got forward at every opportunity.

Fulham's caretaker-boss Chris Coleman had opted for safety-first with rookie striker Elvis Hammond up on his own and a five-man midfield.

But Paul Robinson had a quiet night in the United goal as Dominic Matteo, restored to

centre-back after the St Mary's debacle, kept the back-door shut as Leeds kept their first clean sheet since beating West Ham in early February.

Coleman sent on striker Barry Hayles for the ineffective Junichi Inamoto at the interval but within minutes Kewell raced through the heart of the visitors' defence.

His shot was blocked by goalkeeper Maik Taylor but fellow

Aussie Viduka, following up, lashed the loose ball in from 15 yards via an upright for his 12th goal in his last nine games.

Fulham could not live with Viduka's power, skill and vision.

Allied to Alan Smith's non-stop hustling and Kewell's incisive dribbling it gave United a

three-pronged attack that had everything but finishing power.

The nearest they got to a third came 14 minutes from the end when Kewell, after another sortie in to the Fulham box, saw his shot come off an upright.

Had it gone in then the scoreline would have been a truer reflection of the game as Fulham were outplayed - and that hasn't happened to a side visiting Elland Road for many months.

The scrap for relegation looks like a straight fight between West Ham and Bolton, who are just four points above the Hammers.

Bolton entertain title-chasing Arsenal on Saturday, while West Ham go to Manchester City the

following day.

By then, Leeds, boasting a superior goal difference, hope they will be out of the equation.

Leeds match facts

FA Barclaycard Premiership

Leeds United 2, Fulham 0

(at Elland Road)

Leeds United: Robinson, Mills, Matteo, Duberry, Harte, Kelly, Bakke, Wilcox, Kewell, Smith, Viduka. Subs (not used): Martyn, Bravo, Barmby, Kilgallon, Simon Johnson.

Goals: Viduka 4, 47.

Fulham: Taylor, Finnan, Melville, Harley, Djetoud (Knight 10), Inamoto (Hayles HT), Legwinski, Clark, Davis, Boa Morte, Hammond. Subs (not used): Herrera, Sava, Collins.

Cautions: Boa Morte, Hayles.

Referee: Neale Barry (Scunthorpe).

Attendance: 37,220.

Updated: 09:09 Wednesday, April 23, 2003