Robbie Fowler emerged from the Anfield youth ranks to provide a glimmer of hope for Graeme Souness.
The 18-year-old, thrown in for his first team debut by Souness as one of the four changes after the shocking Merseyside derby defeat by Everton, made two goals and hit a stunning third as Liverpool rode a determined Fulham fight-back to earn a comfortable Coca-Cola Cup first leg lead.
The pressure was mounting on Souness after four defeats in five games - but along came England youth star Fowler to lighten his burden with a sparkling show at rain-drenched Craven Cottage.
Souness axed Steve Nicol, Ronnie Whelan, Mark Walters and Steve McManaman after the Goodison debacle, and watched his reshaped side quickly assume control against the second division strugglers.
The last time these two sides met in this competition Liverpool won 13-2 on aggregate but it was never likely to be as clear-cut this time - though Liverpool's multi-million pound side were facing a team who are all up for sale.
Don Hutchison tested Fulham keeper Jim Stannard with an early drive before Rush struck in the 17th minute. Fowler slung over a pin-point cross when Hutchison knocked back, Stannard missed the ball and Rush was left with a simple tap-in.
Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar had to make a scrambling save from Peter Baah before Liverpool increased their lead in the 40th minute. Again Fowler was involved as he picked up Rush's pass and crossed for Nigel Clough to head home, Fulham defender Martin Pike getting the final touch as the ball sailed in.
Stannard atoned for his error with a good save from Hutchison but could then only watch as Fowler hit the side-netting.
Fulham's Julian Hails went close as the second division side battled back, his cross being kicked off the line by Mark Wright, and Liverpool were rocked 10 minutes later.
A minute after coming on as sub Sean Farrell galloped clear onto Martin Ferney's long-ball and coolly lobbed the advancing Grobbelaar.
Liverpool were rocking, Farrell nodding over when he should have done better and Ferney seeing his shot deflected wide.
But Fowler came to the rescue after blazing over when put clear 10 minutes from time. Three minutes later he fastened onto Hutchison's superb long ball and rifled home his half-volley superbly.
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