Fulham 3 Leicester 2
Lucky Fulham avoided being dumped on the Carling Cup scrapheap along with Premier League rivals Bolton, Hull and West Brom when skipper Danny Murphy’s deflected stoppage-time drive put them in the third round.
The team which beat Arsenal on Saturday went ahead against Coca-Cola League One side Leicester after another deflection, when Hungarian Zoltan Gera’s shot hit Leicester’s Michael Morrison to beat on-loan Liverpool goalkeeper David Martin.
Yet Fulham looked floored when Paul Dickov, 35, and Andy King, 19, put Leicester in front within four minutes of the second half restart.
But Jimmy Bullard came to the rescue with a spectacular long-range strike in the 83rd minute and Murphy’s even later blast finally felled the Foxes.
Fulham showed their commitment to the competition by making just one change to the team that defeated Arsenal – Stoor coming in at right-back for John Pantsil.
Although the Fulham opener after 31 minutes was lucky, the build-up was sharp, with the effervescent Bobby Zamora managing to lay the ball off from impressive Swedish new boy Fredrik Stoor’s lofted pass despite the attention of two defenders, before Gera struck.
But after having the edge in an entertaining first-half battle, they were stunned by Leicester’s sheer exuberance and fire which produced two goals within four minutes of the restart.
Veteran Dickov, in his second spell at the Midlands club, rammed in an equaliser in the opening minute of the second half after half-time substitute Max-Alain Gradel, from the Ivory Coast, had a shot blocked.
Zamora really should have equalised straight away when Fulham forced a corner, but he headed over the bar unchallenged from Simon Davies’ flag kick.
The punishment was severe – with midfielder King taking possession just inside the area and curling a shot beyond Mark Schwarzer, an effort to challenge his 35-yard effort which won City’s Goal of the Season award last term.
Fulham could not complain they had not seen the threat of a shock coming.
Leicester had started the match strongly and good work by Matt Fryatt set up Steve Howard for a rising drive from 18 yards which tested Mark Schwarzer.
Fulham replied with Zamora bursting into action, unleashing a low drive which flew just wide. Then Murphy fed Bullard whose snap shot was deflected for a corner.
Fryatt had a goalbound shot blocked at the other end soon afterwards, and it was lively fare for the small crowd of 7,584.
Busy Zamora almost reached a probing right-wing cross by Simon Davies in the 20th minute when the former West Ham striker cleverly lost his marker at the far post.
It nevertheless looked grim for the Premier League side after Leicester’s stunning one-two in the second half, but Bullard, Murphy and luck saved the day late on.