Steve Marlet saved Fulham from FA Cup humiliation as his late equaliser denied Wycombe Wanderers another FA Cup scalp at Adams Park.

The French forward started to pay back some of the £11.5m Jean Tigana paid to bring him to England from Lyon by heading in an equaliser from substitute Barry Hayles’ cross just as the Cottagers looked set to become the fourth top flight side to exit the world’s oldest club cup competition at the third round stage. The Second Division side, who had put themselves in prime position to face Grimsby Town or York City in the next round after a stirring second half comeback, will now have to console themselves with the prospect of a replay at Craven Cottage.

Wycombe, annual overarchievers in this competition, have been transformed by the management of Lawrie Sanchez, who famously scored the winning goal when Wimbledon beat Liverpool in 1988 FA Cup final, in the three years since he began his time with Wanderers by earning a 1-1 draw against Kevin Keegan’s Division Two champions’-elect. They survived until half time here largely on account of Fulham’s lack of conviction in front of goal, something Tigana tried to address with the signing of John Carew, only for the Norwegian striker to fail a medical.

Louis Saha could have made the Premiership outfit’s uncomfortable evening in Buckinghamshire far more straightforward had he headed in Steed Malbranque’s deep corner when in oceans of space at the back post, but the former Newcastle striker – so prolific in front of goal in his first season at Craven Cottage last term – somehow nodded wide. Marlet and Saha went close before the break whilst Wycombe’s most promising moment came when Jermaine McSporran, courted by Arsenal and West Ham over the last few weeks, charged down a clearance from Maik Taylor.

Fulham, fired up by a fiery team talk from the usually mild mannered Tigana, took just over a minute to go in front at the start of the second period. Sylvain Legwinski both made and scored the goal, surging into the penalty area after collecting a pass from Malbranque that should have been intercepted by Steve Brown, only for Mark Rogers to block his venomous drive. Legwinski made no mistake from the rebound – firing into the roof of the net.

But Wycombe refused to fold after their opponents had seized the advantage. Sanchez swiftly replaced veteran Andy Rammell with Keith Ryan and McSporran’s pace was worrying the top flight side. They were level within ten minutes when Alain Goma brought down the rapid forward, leaving Graham Barber with the simplest of decisions. Brown, who missed last season’s semi-final with Liverpool throughout suspension, beat Maik Taylor from the penalty spot with pure power even though the Northern Irish goalkeeper had gone the right way.

The complexion of the contest changed completely. Nine minutes later they were in front when McSporran prolifically punished a poor punch from Fulham goalkeeper Taylor to turn away from three defenders and fire left-footed into the net. Fulham struggled to make much of an impression until Tigana summoned Hayles from the bench. The Jamaican striker nearly found a leveller with eight minutes left but his shot drifted just wide. The man who cut his teeth at Bristol Rovers has plenty of experience at grounds like this one and bustled down the wing to provide Marlet’s dramatic equaliser. Fulham would have won it without Martin Taylor making a magnificent save from Sean Davis in the last minute – but they would have been even crueller on Sanchez’s side.

That was until Marlet connected with Barry Hayles’ cross in the dying throes of a compelling match to give the Premiership side a reprieve they barely deserved.

Wycombe: Taylor, Senda, Rogers, McCarthy (Cousins 70), Vinnicombe, Currie (Carroll 74), Bulman, Simpson, Brown, Rammell (Ryan 48), McSporran.

WYCOMBE WANDERERS (4-4-2): Martin Taylor; Senda, Vinnicombe, Rogers, McCarthy (Cousins 70); Simpson, Bulman, Currie (Carroll 74), Brown; Rammell (Ryan 48), McSporran. Subs (not used): Roberts, Osborn.

BOOKED: Senda.

GOALS: Brown (pen 57), McSporran (66.)

FULHAM (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Finnan, Brevett, Melville, Goma; Knight (Davis 69), Collins (Hayles 69), Legwinski, Malbranque; Saha, Marlet. Subs (not used): van der Sar, Harley, Stolcers.

BOOKED: Hayles.

Goals: Legwinski 47, Marlet 88.

Subs Not Used: Van der Sar, Harley, Stolcers.

Booked: Hayles. Goals: Legwinski 47, Marlet 88.

GOALS: Legwinski (47), Marlet (88)

REFEREE: Graham Barber (Tring).