Poor old Paul Bracewell must be sick of the magic of the Cup. His Fulham side, unlikely to get promoted from the First Division after a woeful run of one league win in eight games, had already surrendered a two-goal lead at Leicester to crash out of the League Cup on penalties in the last eight and they were beaten this afternoon at Craven Cottage by the nation’s favourite giantkillers, Tranmere Rovers, after a cracking fifth round FA Cup tie.

The Merseysiders succeeded where both Wimbledon and Tottenham Hotspur have failed this season in winning at Craven Cottage to reach the quarter finals of the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s history. The beleaguered Bracewell, who is having to watch Mohamed Al-Fayed make eyes at potential replacements, warned that the Whites would need to wary of Tranmere’s long throws and that proved prescient as the visitors added more pain to a frustrating campaign at the Cottage.

Rovers went in front from a throw in in the tenth minute but, with the wind by the banks of the Thames, likely to hinder Dave Challinor’s astonishing ability to reach the penalty area, John Aldridge’s side did something different. The throw was still a significant threat they failed to deal with and Wayne Alison eventually punished poor defending by heading in at the far post after something of a goalmouth scramble.

Fulham had been inhibited in the early stages as if they were overawed by the occasion. In blustery conditions, Tranmere had made the more imposing start but the Whites equalised from their own throwback of a set piece. Steve Finnan picked himself up off the floor to swing over a free-kick that was helped on by Karl-Heinz Riedle and Chris Coleman volleyed his side level. The hosts had chances to take the lead, most notably when Finnan fired fractionally wide of the far post after being teed up by Coleman, before John Achterberg saved superbly from Paul Peschisolido in a one-on-one and gathered Riedle’s header from Bjarne Goldbaek’s cross.

The home side were made to pay for those misses twenty minutes from time when Tranmere retook the lead. A brilliant ball from Alan Mahon beat Fulham’s pitiful attempt to play offside, allowing Andy Parkinson to surge down the right and pick out substitute David Kelly, who fired in from close range. Bracewell’s side did push for a late leveller but this was Tranmere’s day – and you have to wonder how long his first managerial job will last now.

FULHAM (4-4-2): M. Taylor; Finnan, Symons, Melville, Coleman; Ball (Hayles 59), Clark, Goldbaek, W. Collins (Davis 71); Riedle, Peschisolido. Subs (not used): Hahnemann, S. Morgan, Hayward.

BOOKED: Ball, Riedle.

GOAL: Coleman (18).

TRANMERE ROVERS (4-4-2): Achterberg; Hazell, Thompson, Babb, Challinor; Henry, Mahon, Jones (A. Morgan 68), Parkinson; Allison, S. Taylor (Kelly 59). Subs (not used): Nixon, Koumas, Black.

BOOKED: Babb, Thompson, Henry, Jones, Kelly.

GOALS: Allison (9), Kelly (70).

REFEREE: David Elleray (Dover).