Birthday boy Egil Ostendstadt scored a last-gasp leveller to save Southampton from a second Cup exit at the hands of Second Division Fulham at the Dell this afternoon.

The pressure appeared to be rising on beleaguered Saints boss Dave Jones as their second half onslaught looked destined to come to nothing against the Cottagers, managed by former Dell hero Kevin Keegan. But the Premiership strugglers, who saw defender Ken Monkou sent off for a dreadful challenge on Rufus Brevett, were indebted to Ostenstadt, who popped up with the perfect present by stabbing home after an untidy goalmouth scramble to break Fulham’s hearts.

Steve Hayward had set the Division Two leaders on course to repeat their League Cup shock from September when he fired home from twenty yards in the ninth minute. The impressive midfielder delighted the travelling fans by firing past Paul Jones after Barry Hayles had punished dreadful defending from Claus Lundekvam. The Whites looked every inch a top-flight outfit and might easily have been three goals to the good after dominating the first period.

Neil Smith wasted a good opportunity to double the lead before Hayles was denied a penalty despite appearing to be hauled over by Monkou in the box. Saints struggled for incision themselves without the services of mercurial playmaker Matt Le Tissier, who was sidelined by a calf complaint, with their only effort on target in the first half seeing Maik Taylor tipping over a rising drive from Ostendstadt.

The home side did rouse themselves after Jones read the riot act at half time. Jason Dodd drilled just over from 25 yards out before the persistent James Beattie saw a shot blocked. Hasan Kachloul sent two free-kicks fractionally wide and Saints were denied what looked like a strong penalty shout after Smith appeared to have brought down Mark Hughes in the box.

To the consternation of the home faithful, referee Dermot Gallagher was quick to dismiss Monkou for a wild lunge at Brevett but the Saints denied Fulham a place in the fourth round for the first time since 1983 right at the death. It was a desperately unfortunate end for Keegan’s side as substitute Paul Trollope’s clearance clattered into Allan Neilson and fell fortuitously for Ostendstadt who hooked home a leveller from seven yards out, despite being prone on the floor after going up for a header.

SOUTHAMPTON (4-4-2): Jones; Hiley, Colleter, Monkou, Lundekvam (Monk 20); Palmer, Oakley (Hughes 66), Dodd, Kachloul; Beattie, Ostendstadt. Subs (not used): Stensgaard, Bridge, Basham.

BOOKED: Palmer.

SENT OFF: Monkou.

GOAL: Ostendstadt (89).

FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan, Brevett, Coleman, Symons; Bracewell (W. Collins 66), Neilson, Hayward, Smith; Horsfield (Trollope 89), Hayles (Lehmann 75). Subs (not used): Arendse, Uhlenbeek.

BOOKED: Horsfield, Hayward.

GOAL: Hayward (9).

REFEREE: Dermot Gallagher (Oxfordshire).