Given the recent developments in Ukraine, it seems pretty poignant to be writing about Fulham’s magnificent performance in Shakhtar Donetsk right now. Twelve years ago tonight, Roy Hodgson’s side followed up their fine win at Craven Cottage by producing an almost perfect defensive display to knock the holders out of the Europa League on their own turf. Brede Hangeland’s brilliant header cancelled out Shakhtar’s away goal and, while the Whites might have rode their luck during a second half onslaught from the hosts, they survived the late dismissal of skipper Danny Murphy to progress to the last sixteen.

This was a result that nobody saw coming – even after Bobby Zamora’s absolute rocket gave unfancied Fulham a slender lead to take to Ukraine. Mircea Lucescu, now back in charge of the club that has been playing in exile in Kyiv over the last few seasons and now right in the middle of the Russian invasion, insisted things would be different in Donetsk. Most of the pundits saw it that way as well, especially after Shakhtar were so mesmorising in possession during the first leg. Their defensive mistakes were considered aberrations and there was no way Fulham would be able to resist so stoutly again.

Fulham’s preparation for the second leg was disrupted by Shakhtar’s decision to publish their visitors’ complete itinerary on the club website. Whether this was in retaliation for their players not being allowed entry into Harrods before the first fixture, is unknown. Fulham made a complaint to UEFA, but their biggest task was going to be preventing Shakhtar’s pretty passing from ripping through the diligent defensive structure. Hodgson’s meticulous focus on team shape paid handsome dividends here, with the Whites lining up in the familiar two banks of four with Zoltan Gera just behind Bobby Zamora, and soaking up plenty of pressure.

Early on, it looked like Shakhtar’s best chance of an opening might come from a set play but the Londoners dealt with a succession of corners very well. At times, it appeared as if Luiz Adriano and Mark Schwarzer were having their own private game. The Australian denied the Brazilian in the very first minute – an ominous sign – and was also called into action by Fernandinho and Ilsinho. Willian looked like he was leading Chris Baird a bit of a merry dance along the left wing and you wondered just how long Fulham might hold out.

Then, gloriously, they were ahead from their very first attack. A foul on Zamora brought some blessed relief for an already overworked defence but Hangeland glanced in a devilish delivery from Damien Duff to grab that precious away goal. Zamora nearly scored another long-range effort, but understandably the focus was still on preventing Shakhtar from building up a head of steam. The hosts were revived after the break with Douglas Costa looking the most likely source of an equaliser but a mass of white shirts frequently blocked his threatening runs. Whilst Shakhtar were restricted to shots from distance, you felt Fulham might survive.

The determined defence, with the unheralded Stephen Kelly filling in fantastically at left back, eventually cracked with just over twenty minutes to play. Of course, Costa was the catalyst – breezing past Baird in the box – and digging out a cut back that eluded Adriano but was buried by Jadson, another Brazilian who had been quiet until he appeared on the edge of the six-yard box. Now, the pressure was on. A defensive mistake gave Zoltan Gera the chance to wrap things up but the Hungarian uncharacteristically placed his shot wide of goal having charged down a clearance and run in on goal from almost the halfway. He lay prone on the turf – needing no reminding of the glorious chance he’d wasted.

Two moments of madness then enlivened the closing stages. The usually docile Hodgson was on the pitch after Damien Duff’s progress through the Shakhtar half was halted by a horror tackle, but no red card was shown. Fulham were incensed – and that might have played a part in Danny Murphy’s own moment of petulance as the Fulham skipper was dismissed for a silly kick out at Dario Srna. That might have taken some of the gloss off an unbelievable achievement, but the delirious celebrations at full time marked the furthest Fulham had progressed in continental competition. Of course, there was much more to come.