Fulham sneaked into the play-offs after Gillingham were held to a goalless draw by Wigan Athletic despite losing to champions Watford at Craven Cottage this afternoon.

Jason Lee’s 71st minute winner had the home crowd sweating on results elsewhere but Ray Wilkins’ big spenders have another chance to clinch a second successive promotion despite suffering a third straight league defeat at the hands of the Hornets. Watford, the favourites to clinch the title on a dramatic final day in the third tier, went in front shortly after the half hour mark when Gifton Noel-Williams gobbled up a great cross from Micah Hyde.

Steve Palmer’s history-making afternoon in the number nine shirt – the Watford cult hero became first player to wear ever number from one to fourteen in an English season – lasted only 26 minutes before he limped off with a calf complaint. Fulham were fitful as an attacking force in the first half with Paul Peschisolido looking the most likely to find a leveller despite playing out of position wide on the left in a front three.

Once ex-England international Peter Beardsley was switched into that position in the second half, Fulham found more possession and penetration. It was the former Liverpool legend who brought the home side back into it with a blistering 20-yard drive that left Alex Chamberlain grasping at air, but barring a brief spell after the equaliser, the visitors controlled proceedings. There was no surprise when the much-maligned Lee had the last word, punishing Fulham goalkeeper Maik Taylor for dropping a routine cross at the striker’s feet.

An angry Wilkins demanded an improvement from his players after the final whistle: “We were poor. We only played for ten minutes when we got the goal. We have to improve if we are going to get to Wembley.”

FULHAM (4-3-3): Taylor; Lawrence, Brevett, Blake, Coleman; Bracewell, Smith (Trollope 76), W. Collins; Beardsley, Moody, Peschisolido (Thorpe 72). Subs (not used): Morgan.

BOOKED: Moody.

GOAL: Beardsley (61).

WATFORD (3-4-3): Chamberlain; Bazeley, Millen, Palmer (Gibbs 26); Johnson, Kennedy, Hyde, Hazan; Noel-Williams (Robinson 68), Lee, Mooney. Subs (not used): Andrews.

BOOKED: Mooney.

GOALS: Noel-Williams (33), Lee (71).

REFEREE: W. C. Burns (Scarborough).