Fulham were indebted to French duo Steve Marlet and Steed Malbranque after scaping past Hadjuk Split to keep their UEFA Cup adventure alive this evening.

The Whites looked like surrendering the slender advantage secured by Malbranque’s superb strike in Croatia a fortnight ago, as the visitors threw caution to the wind in attempting to get back into the tie at Loftus Road. Roared on by a fanatical support in the School End, Zoran Vulic’s men were far more threatening than they had been in the first leg and two first-half goals put Fulham’s progression in genuine jeopardy.

Whilst Split were pouring forward, Fulham looked nervous and tentative – a far cry from the professional performance that had earned them a narrow lead in one of the most intimidating atmospheres around. Defensive mistakes gave the visitors belief that they could overhaul their deficit. Firstly, the usually reliable Rufus Brevett brought down Dario Srna just outside the area and Vlatko Djalonga’s free-kick took a wicked deflection off Sean Davis to completely wrong foot Edwin van der Sar.

The Dutchman looked beaten by another driven Djalonga set-piece shortly afterwards but this one flew fractionally wide of van der Sar’s near post. Fulham roused themselves and equalised with one of their flew fluent moves of the first half. Luis Boa Morte found Malbranque and the classy playmaker played in Facundo Sava. The Argentinian striker, in danger of being crowded out by the Hajduk defence, saw his pass reach Marlet and the French international fired Fulham level.

But the hosts were rocked by a second Split goal four minutes before the interval. Slack marking at another Djolonga set-piece saw Hrvoje Vejic give Sava the slip to head home a corner – and give the Croatians the lead on away goals. They couldn’t hold out until the break, however, conceding a penalty when Vejic bundled over Marlet in the box. Malbranque’s first penalty was chalked off for encroachment but the midfielder kept his cool – calmly picking out the other corner to bring the Whites level on the night.

Jean Tigana’s side seemed more assured after their half-time team-talk but couldn’t put the tie to bed despite having the better of the second half. The highly-rated Stipe Pleitkosa made sharp saves to deny Boa Morte and Malbranque, before Davis somehow shot way wide after being teed up by Marlet. Hajduk still carried a serious threat and substitute Junichi Inamoto was forced to clear a late header from Mato Neretjak off the line as the Londoners just about hung on.

Without blinking the Frenchman stepped up again and put the ball in other corner.

Fulham looked more composed in the second period and Boa Morte, Davis and Malbranque all peppered Stipe Pletikosa’s goal with shots.

In a frantic finale, Junichi Inamoto had to head off the line for Fulham as Split almost grabbed a dramatic late victory.

FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar; Ouaddoh, Brevett, Melville, Knight; Davis, Legwinski, Malbranque, Boa Morte (Inamoto 68); Marlet, Sava (Hayles 75). Subs (not used): Taylor, Clark, Collins, Wome, Leacock.

BOOKED: Melville, Brevett.

GOALS: Marlet (20), Malbranque (pen 44).

HAJDUK SPLIT (5-3-2): Pletikosa; Srna, Djolonga, Vejic, Vukovic, Neretljak; Carevic (Mise 85), Andric, Miladin; Bule, Deranja (Racunica 72). Subs (not used): Runje, Piric, Radeljic, Brgles, Gudelj.

BOOKED: Carevic, Neretljak, Srna. 

GOALS: Djolonga (6), Vejic (41).

REFEREE: Stefano Farina (Italy)