Skipper Danny Murphy’s deflected long-range drive in stoppage time saved Fulham’s blushes and knocked Coca-Cola League One Leicester out of the Carling Cup after they had fought back to lead 2-1 early in the second half.
Another deflected shot, this time from Hungarian Zoltan Gera, had given Fulham a 31st-minute lead as the ball went in off defender Michael Morrison
But full-strength Fulham were stunned by Leicester’s amazing comeback in the opening three minutes of the second half when veteran Paul Dickov and teenager Andy King struck.
Jimmy Bullard’s spectacular effort levelled matters after 83 minutes and looked like forcing extra-time, but Murphy’s late show denied the Foxes even that.
A Zoltan Gera shot which took a nasty deflection off Leicester’s Michael Morrison gave Fulham a hard-earned lead just after half an hour of their Carling Cup clash at Craven Cottage.
Bobby Zamora’s determination helped carve out a chance from a long ball by impressive newcomer Fredrik Stoor, but although the Premier League side had the edge, League One Leicester gave a good account of themselves.
Lloyd Dyer and Paul Dickov went close and Steve Howard also tested keeper Mark Schwarzer but the midfield class of Jimmy Bullard and Danny Murphy kept the hosts in the ascendancy.
Craven Cottage was, however, less than half full – despite reduced admission prices and Leicester bringing a fair contingent of around 2,000 fans from the midlands.
Leicester were far from overawed by their Premier League hosts at the start.
Good work by Matty Fryatt set up Steve Howard for a rising drive from 18 yards that tested Mark Schwarzer.
Fulham replied through Bobby Zamora, who burst into action, unleashing a low drive that flew just wide. Then Danny Murphy fed Jimmy Bullard, whose snap-shot was deflected for a corner.
Fulham tried to work the same short-corner routine that undid Arsenal on Saturday but Leicester cleared their lines and suddenly Lloyd Dyer was off on an electric run three-quarters of the length of the pitch, finishing with a fine shot that Schwarzer had to smother at full stretch in the 12th minute.
Fryatt had a goalbound shot blocked at the other end soon afterwards and it was lively fare for the small crowd.
Busy Zamora almost reached a probing right-wing cross by Simon Davies in the 20th minute when the former West Ham striker cleverly lost his marker at the far post.
Fulham took 31 minutes to find the breakthrough but had to rely on a slice of luck with Michael Morrison’s own goal.
Zamora latched onto Stoor’s diagonal long ball from the right into the area but, challenged by two defenders, he had to turn it back for Zoltan Gera, who struck a low drive which David Martin might well have saved but for a deflection off the luckless Morrison taking it just inside a post.
Fulham had already looked sharp and fully committed but the goal gave them a extra spring in their stride and for a while Leicester were left chasing shadows as Bullard and Murphy orchestrated attacks from the centre of midfield.
The Foxes kept sniffing for counter-raids, though, and from a Dyer corner both Paul Dickov and Howard flung themselves in at the far post only for the ball to just elude them.
Dickov ran to referee Paul Taylor, apparently complaining about shirt-pulling but the official was unmoved.
Dickov kept plugging away, though, and his left-foot shot was not far wide from 20 yards just before the break.
Fulham were not prepared for the amazing start to the second half – as Leicester turned their deficit into a 2-1 lead within four minutes of the restart.
Max-Alain Gradel replaced Fryatt at half-time and it was his shot which was half-blocked but only cleared as far as Dickov who drove it home in the 46th minute.
Stunned Fulham went straight downfield and Zamora’s shot was turned aside by Martin for a corner.
Zamora really should have restored Fulham’s lead instead of heading over from eight yards when unchallenged for the corner kick.
The punishment was severe – Leicester burst forward again through Dyer and when Andy King took possession just inside the area he curled a delightful right-footed shot around Schwarzer’s dive for 2-1 in the 49th minute.
And it could have been worse. Howard took advantage of growing panic in the home defence to steer a shot past Schwarzer two minutes later and Brede Hangeland had to clear from the line.
The visitors poured forward looking for a third goal, and they also defended stoutly to foil Fulham’s frantic attempts to repair the damage.
Inevitably the pressure grew on the League One side but their breakaways were dangerous and Schwarzer had to be smart off his line as Dickov chased a through-ball into the area.
Substitute Erik Nevland had the ball in the net for Fulham after 77 minutes to a great roar from the home crowd but there was no protest from Fulham when it was ruled offside.
But there was no doubt about Bullard’s spectacular equaliser in the 83rd minute. Davies’ pull back found the Fulham favourite on the edge of the area and he arrowed a right-foot drive into the top left-hand corner.
And luckless Leicester were undone when Murphy’s 25-yard blast in the last minute was deflected in for the winner.
FULHAM (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Stoor, Kallio, Hughes, Hangeland; Murphy, Bullard, Gera, Davies; Seol Ki-Hyeon; Zamora (Nevland 59). Subs (not used): Zuberbuhler, Pantsil, Baird, Andreasen, Teymourian, Dempsey.
GOALS: Gera (31), Bullard (83), Murphy (90).
LEICESTER CITY (4-4-2): Martin, Gilbert, Morrison, Tunchev, Powell, Dickov (Campbell 87), Wesolowski, A. King, Dyer, Fryatt (Gradel 46), Howard. Subs (not used): Henderson, Kishishev, Adams, Hobbs, C. King.
GOALS: Dickov (46), A. King (48).
REFEREE: Paul Taylor (Hertfordshire).