Barry Hayles has always faced questions about his suitability to lead the line at Craven Cottage. Just as he has every other season since he moved to Fulham from Bristol Rovers for £2m in 1998, the barrel-chested striker has proved the doubters wrong by becoming a regular scorer in the top flight. Tonight, he used all of his experience accrued from his earlier days in the lower divisions to score the winner that ended Wycombe’s hopes of causing another giantkilling.

The Whites made heavy weather of getting past the Second Division Chairboys, whose best chance of generating another FA Cup shot ultimately evaporated with Steve Marlet’s late equaliser at Adams Park a week ago. The Premiership side had to wait nearly 69 minutes to break the deadlock on their own turf, however, with Hayles robbing Steve Brown of possession on the edge of his own box, spinning away from Mark Rogers and leaving Martin Taylor grasping at thin air as he dispatched a fine finish in the bottom corner.

The victory has come at a cost for Fulham. Louis Saha lasted just nineteen minutes before being crudely kicked in the face by Chris Vinnicombe as he bore down on goal. The French forward left the field with his nose bloodied and, afterwards assistant manager Christian Damiano confirmed that it had been broken, and that Saha would miss this weekend’s trip to Sunderland as a result. The Fulham coaching staff were furious at Wycombe’s physical approach with Jason Cousins sent off for a second bookable offence after lunging into goalscorer Hayles from behind.

The visitors did well to limit Fulham to largely speculative shots from distance in the first half, with a combination of their robust approach and disciplined defending. Marlet and Boa Morte came the closest to firing the home side in front before things drastically boiled over in the dying embers of the first half. Rufus Brevett was booked for diving when he appeared to be tripped by Vinnicombe and Brown had to be cautioned after grabbing Marlet in an ensuing scuffle.

That episode fired up Wanderers, who went close when Jermaine McSporran, their liveliest outlet in the original tie, and curled a 20-yarder just over the bar. Fulham played far more of the football in the second half and only Wycombe’s resilience and character kept them level. Once Hayles had opened the scoring, the floodgates would have opened where it not for Martin Taylor’s magnificence. The Chairboys custodian made a succession of superb saves, twice denying Marlet and then preventing Hayles from making absolutely sure of Fulham’s progression with a brilliant block at close range.

FULHAM (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Finnan, Brevett, Melville, Goma; Knight (Stolcers 67), Davis, Malbranque, Boa Morte; Saha (Marlet 21), Hayles. Subs (not used): Hahnemann, Betsy, Trollope.

BOOKED: Finnan, Brevett.

GOAL: Hayles (68);

WYCOMBE WANDERERS (4-4-2): Martin Taylor, Vinnicombe, Cousins, Rogers, Ryan, Carroll (Roberts 42), Currie, Simpson, Brown (Lee 71), Bulman, McSporran (Devine 79). Subs (not used): Osborn, Johnson.

BOOKED: Vinnicombe, Cousins, Bulman, Brown, Roberts.

SENT OFF: Cousins.

REFEREE: Graham Barber (Tring).