A superb strike from skipper Paul Groves secured Grimsby’s place in Division One next season as they reached safety with a stunning win over champions Fulham at Blundell Park this afternoon.

Groves’ low drive from long distance beat Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann for the only goal of the game and left Lennie Lawrence the toast of Lincolnshire after another successful bid for survival. The Mariners’ fully merited their precious three points as they battled for every ball and made light of their lowly league position by raising their game for the visit of the Cottagers, who had swept all before them in a triumphant campaign.

The visitors began on the front foot with newly-capped Portuguese international Luis Boa Morte making the first impression by breezing away from the home defence only to fire across the face of goal and wide from around fifteen yards out. American goalkeeper Hahnemann held a firm volley from midfielder Stuart Campbell after Steve Livingstone had done well to dig out a cross.

The movement of Boa Morte and Louis Saha posed problems for the home defence, although Fulham’s top scorer will feel he should have done better than fail to beat Grimsby goalkeeper Coyne with two attempts at goal after racing onto Boa Morte’s perfectly weighted through ball.

Livingstone – who lead Grimsby’s scoring charts with just seven goals – almost lifted the roof off Blundell Park when he twisted and turned on the edge of the area and flashed a shot just past the angle of post and crossbar. But the home fans didn’t have long to wait to celebrate a massive goal as Groves took aim from fully 25 yards but his daisycutter humbled Hahnemann as it squeezed through goalkeeper’s legs.

The American international, who has spent much of the season on the bench deputising for Maik Taylor, has hardly made the most of his opportunity in recent weeks having been at fault for Sheffield Wednesday’s opening goal at Craven Cottage last month and dropping a real ricket here. Fulham responded by stepping up their attacks with Bjarne Goldbaek blazing over after being teed up by Saha and Sean Davis saw a second half free-kick well saved by Coyne.

Grimsby battled manfully and clung on to their slender advantage. Livingstone should have settled the nerves but the striker wasted a very presentable chance having found yards of space in the penalty area. It didn’t matter in the end – as the Mariners were able to celebrate another excellent piece of escapology.

GRIMSBY TOWN (4-4-2): Coyne, McDermott, Gallimore, Raven, Groves, Butterfield, Donovan, Livingstone, Pouton, Campbell (David Smith 82), Willems (Burnett 74). Subs (not used): Hyldgaard, Jeffrey, Allen.

BOOKED: Gallimore.

GOAL: Groves (27).

FULHAM (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Finnan, Phelan, Melville, Goma; Davis, Clark, Goldbaek (Betsy 65), Stolcers (Hayles 56); Saha, Boa Morte. Subs (not used): Taylor, Symons, Trollope.

BOOKED: Boa Morte.

REFEREE: Paul Reijer (Tipton).