Rufus Brevett was Fulham’s fortunate saviour as his last-gasp equaliser prevented the Premiership side from being humbled by Third Division leaders Rochdale in the League Cup this evening.

The full-back break the hearts of the home fans at Spotland with a ferocious drive in the last minute of extra-time to force a penalty shoot-out which was won by Portuguese winger Luis Boa Morte’s decisive spot-kick. But Jean Tigana’s expensively assembled outfit knew they were very fortunate to progress to the third round after being outfought and outplayed by their hosts.

Fulham dominated the first half but almost paid the price of over confidence as they went within seconds of an embarrassing exit. Barry Hayles battered a shot against the crossbar in the seventh minute and Luis Boa Morte saw a header from Steed Malbranque’s corner cleared off the line as the Cottagers made a confident start. Gareth Griffiths had a goalbound header blocked by Jon Harley, but the visitors went in front a minute later as Lee Clark streaked clear and, although Gilks got a hand to his shot, Boa Morte was able to tuck away the rebound with a modicum of fuss.

Gilks then scampered off his line to prevent Boa Morte from making it 2-0 and the Portugal international somehow rattled the side netting rather than the net after latching onto Steve Finnan’s cut back. Rochdale remained industrious and fought for every ball, but they struggled for genuine chances until a mistake from Sean Davis allowed Steve Parkin’s side to level the scores. The England under-21 international dawdled on the ball, giving substitute Kevin Townson an opportunity to advance on the Fulham defence and beat Maik Taylor with a fine finish from the edge of the box.

The young striker almost found a winner with a snapshot that whistled just wide as Rochdale raised the tempo in the closing stages. Fulham found another gear at the death and the hosts were indebted to a brilliant bit of defending from Sean McAuley, who put his body in the way of a goalbound effort from Boa Morte. The top flight side were on the front foot in the first period of extra time with Malbranque and Boa Morte going close to regaining the lead for the Londoners.

But Spotland went potty just before the interval when Townson was in the right place to tuck home after Clive Platt’s effort had bounced back off the post following a well-worked Rochdale move. The Division Three pacesetters looked to have done enough until Brevett lashed home just his second Fulham goal in the last minute of extra time to deny the Lancastrians a famous giantkilling.

The Premiership side even flirted with disaster in the shoot-out with Sean Davis and Barry Hayles missing from the spot but two superb saves from Taylor took this enthralling tie to sudden tie. That was when Boa Morte ended the chance of any romance, but Parkin’s side emerged with great credit having pushed their illustrious opposition all the way.

ROCHDALE (4-4-2): Gilkes; Evans, Bayliss, Griffiths, McAuley; Ford (Flitcroft 68), Oliver, Jones, Durkan (Doughty 49); Connor (Townson 69), Platt. Subs (not used): Baker, Todd.

BOOKED: Bayliss.

GOALS: Townson (74, 102).

FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan, Harley (Brevett 49), Knight, Ouaddoh; Davis, Clark, Goldbaek (Legwinski 105), Malbranque; Hayles, Boa Morte. Subs (not used): Hahnemann, Betsy.

BOOKED: Finnan, Hayles.

GOALS: Boa Morte (17), Boa Morte (120).

REFEREE: Roy Pearson (Peterlee).