CHRIS Brunt and Billy Jones both managed an hour apiece upon their respective returns as Albion registered an impressive 2-1 Barclays Under-21 Premier League victory over Fulham at The Hawthorns.
Brunt made an earlier-than-expected comeback following a knee injury sustained during the home defeat to Manchester United a month ago, while full-back Jones has been sidelined since late February due to a hamstring problem.
And the pair put in accomplished displays against the Cottagers as they step up their match fitness before making way around the hour mark.
The impressive Kemar Roofe handed the Baggies a half-time lead against a Fulham side flying high in the table, only for Chris David’s excellent free-kick to level matters in the 69th minute.
But captain Donvervorn Daniels headed a late winner for Albion, rounding off an entertaining encounter which saw the woodwork struck four times in total – Roofe and Liam O’Neil for the hosts.
Both sides rattled the frame of the goal inside the opening nine minutes.
Firstly, Joshua Pritchard struck a post from a well-worked free-kick before Alex Jones rattled the crossbar 60 seconds later at the other end following neat approach play between Brunt, Billy Jones and Samir Nabi.
After a finely-balanced first quarter it was Albion who took the lead after 22 minutes.
Alex Jones dinked a neat ball across the penalty area to Aaron Birch and he nodded down into the path of Roofe, who took a touch before converting from six yards.
Nabi flashed a ball across the face of goal either side of routine long-range efforts from Alex Jones and Birch, while David curled an effort narrowly wide for Fulham.
O’Neil became the second Albion player to strike the crossbar just after the half-hour mark, while Luke Daniels saved well from Muamer Tankovic shortly before half-time.
Billy Jones managed 56 minutes before making way for Cameron Gayle and just five minutes later it was time for Brunt to be replaced by Joe Ward.
Nabi wasted a clear opening to double Albion’s advantage before the hosts were handed a let off themselves, with defender Kyle Howkins appearing to handle Lasse Vigen Christensen’s cross in the area.
But Fulham did draw level in the 69th minute courtesy of a well-taken 25-yard free-kick from David.
Luke Daniels made a superb double save to deny Christensen and then Pritchard before an effort from Roofe nicked the outside of a post.
But from Roofe’s resulting corner in the 81st minute, Donervorn Daniels rose highest to head home and clinch all three points.
It was enough to secure victory and ensure Albion head into Tuesday’s Birmingham Senior Cup semi-final at Burton on the back of a fine win.
Albion: L Daniels, B Jones (Gayle 56), Atkinson, O'Neil (Wright 76), D Daniels, Howkins, Roofe, Birch, A Jones, Nabi, Brunt (Ward 61)
Subs: Rose, C Jones.
GOALS: Roofe (22), D Daniels (81)
Fulham: Oberschmidt, Passley, Banya, Pritchard, Buatu, Grimmer, Na Bangna (Della Verde 52), Christensen, Tankovic, David, Plumain.
Subs: Brennan, Islamovic, O’Reilly.
GOAL: David (69)