Ten-man Sheffield United earned themselves a place in the fifth-round draw of the FA Cup after holding Premier League Fulham at Bramall Lane this afternoon.
Hugo Rodallega’s 75th minute strike cancelled out Chris Porter’s first half opener after United captain Michael Doyle had been sent off following an altercation with Chris David.
Porter, one of three changes made by Blades boss Nigel Clough, tapped in Harry Maguire’s inviting delivery just after the half hour mark.
In other alterations, new recruit John Brayford, on loan from Cardiff City until the end of the season, was given the nod at right-back following Tony McMahon’s departure.
Conor Coady replaced Stephen McGinn in midfield while Porter deputised for Billy Paynter, who is cup-tied, up front. Stefan Scougall and Bob Harris, who have arrived from Livingston and Blackpool respectively this week, were forced to settle for places on the substitutes bench.
There were fears the tie would be called off following heavy rain in South Yorkshire but, after three pitch inspections, referee Andre Mariner declared the surface playable.
Fulham, languishing in the lower reaches of the Premier League, changed their entire eleven, giving a senior debut to young defender Josh Passley and a first senior start to Swedish teenager Muamer Tankovic.
It was the visitors who made the early running, with Chris David forcing George Long into a smart block at his near post in the fifth minute.
Then Hugo Rodallega glanced Giorgos Karagounis’ dangerous centre wide to further underline that Fulham had adapted quicker to the conditions.
But the Cottagers didn’t have it all their own way. Aaron Hughes tripped up Porter just outside the penalty area midway through the half only for Jose Baxter to curl the resulting free kick narrowly off target.
United opened the scoring after 31 minutes when Porter slotted in from close range after a surging run and cross from Maguire to notch his fifth goal of the campaign.
Moments later, Fulham had a strong penalty appeal waved away by Mariner. Rodallega raced on to Muamer Tankovic’s clever pass, knocked the ball past George Long and then appeared to be brought down by United’s young goalkeeper but the referee wasn’t interested.
Two minutes after the re-start, Pajtim Kasami flahsed a low left footed shot inches wide as Fulham made a statement of their attacking intent.
Good link up play between Scougall, brought on as a half-time replacement for Porter, and Coady created an an opening for Baxter, who turned sharply on the edge of the area before unleashing a tame effort straight at David Stockdale.
United’s skipper Doyle was given his marching orders in the 52nd minute after an altercation off the ball involving David.
But despite Fulham’s numerical advantage, the hosts almost doubled their lead on the counter attack but Stockdale produced a fine stop to foil Ryan Flynn after he tricked his way past Aaron Hughes.
Although Fulham continued to dominate possession, United always carried a threat through Baxter and he curled wide from distance in the 61st minnute after being fed by Jamie Murphy.
At the other end, Kasami lashed over from an acute angle after more slick Fulham passing.
Clough’s men can count themselves unfortunate not to have been awarded a penalty in the 70th minute when Flynn appeared to be upended by Hughes but Mariner turned down their claim.
With quarter of an hour remaining, Fulham levelled things up as Rodallega drilled a fierce right foot effort in after collecting Tankovic’s pass.
United began to tire in the closing stages and George Long produced a superb stop to keep out Damien Duff’s effort.
Fulham piled on the pressure, laying siege to United’s goal, and Philippe Senderos struck the crossbar with a powerful header after meeting Kasami’s centre.
In the dying minutes, substitute Darren Bent spurned a glorious chance to put Fulham through to the next round of the competition but he missed an open goal after Kasami kept the ball in play.
Sheffield United: Long; Brayford, Maguire (Harris 48), Hill, Collins, Flynn, Doyle, Coady, Murphy; Porter (Scougall HT), Baxter (McGinn 85). Substitutes: Howard, Miller, Kennedy, De Girolamo.
Fulham: Stockdale, Passley, Hughes, Senderos, Riise, (Plumain 10), Duff, David (Taarabt 57), Karagounis, Kasami, Tankovic, Rodallega. Subs: Stekelenburg, Pritchard, Christensen, Kacaniklic, Bent.