On a picturesque day of FA Cup football in London, Championship side Queens Park Rangers took their west London rivals and Premier League outfit Fulham to extra time but ultimately fell to goals from Bobby Decordova-Reid and Neeskens Kebano.
Both sides enjoyed a multitude of chances throughout the match but, with the scores goalless after 90 minutes, the match headed into a further half an hour. A cool finish from Decordova-Reid broke the deadlock and Kebano finished the job off with a similar measure of composure in the first half of extra time.
Fulham will advance to the fourth round of the competition, to be contested later this month. They'll find out who their opponents will be in Monday evening's draw.
Story of the game
QPR boss Mark Warburton made just one alteration to the side that held current table-toppers Norwich City to a draw last time out, with Macauley Bonne coming in for Niko Hamalainen to lead the line for the hosts along with Lyndon Dykes.
The changes were ever so slightly more wholesale for Scott Parker and his Fulham side; seven in total, the most notable inclusion being that of Aleksandar Mitrovic up front despite allegations that the Serbian striker breached COVID-19 regulations over the festive period. He partnered Ivan Cavaleiro in attack.
Having not played since Boxing Day due to a recent outbreak of the virus at Fulham's Motspur Park training ground, Parker was able to field quite a strong side here, with the likes of Josh Onomah and Kenny Tete returning from spells on the sidelines and Terence Kongolo making his first start for the club since joining permanently in the summer.
As the crow flies, only about three miles separate today's venue, the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, and Fulham's home ground, Craven Cottage — this is a proper west London derby, one with bragging rights on the line, but it was progression to the fourth round of the cup that both sides ultimately sought most today.
It was a fast start from QPR, as a good spell of pressure down their left forced Ola Aina to boot the ball out for a corner. Tom Carroll supplied the delivery and it met the head of Bonne but effort flew just wide of Marek Rodak's near post.
The game then paused for an early stoppage as Bright Osayi-Samuel called the physios onto the pitch following a knock, but proceedings were back underway after a three-minute delay. Ilias Chair forced Rodak into his first save of the game moments later from 25 yards, but it was a comfortable stop for the Slovakian.
There was a good tempo to this game in the opening exchanges, and it was Fulham's turn to drive at the opposition penalty box next, with Onomah cutting the ball back for Cavaleiro to fire over from just outside the area.
Fulham had the ball in QPR's half for a good five minutes, but sloppy play allowed the hosts to break with 20 on the clock, and a searching in-swinging cross from Chair nearly met the head of Dykes at the back post but for a crucial intervention by Joe Bryan.
Moments later, a through-ball from Bryan aimed at Cavaleiro was intercepted by goalkeeper Seny Dieng on the edge of his area, but his clearance only fell straight back to the Fulham full-back who tried his luck from 35 yards; what a way that would have been to open the scoring, and it was only a matter of inches wide with Dieng stranded.
The Cottagers were growing into this game after a shaky start had put them on the back foot. Just before the half-hour mark, intricate build-up play saw Bryan skip to 18 yards from goal before teeing up Onomah, but the former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder dragged his shot marginally wide.
Another chance for Fulham came after Onomah picked up a sublime lofted pass from Bryan and drove forwards. He brought Rob Dickie out of position and set Mitrovic through on goal, however the striker's first touch was poor and Dieng was able to block the shot from close range.
Having survived something of an onslaught by their visitors, it was QPR's turn to have the next goalscoring opportunity — Dykes drove into the box and cut the ball back for Osayi-Samuel bursting into the area, and the wide man's side-footed effort drew a strong hand from Rodak.
Even scores were probably a fair reflection of the first half, but not for a lack of chances; Mitrovic headed just wide from a Bryan corner in stoppage time, and he looked disappointed not to have buried that as the game went into the break goalless.
Mitrovic had the first chance of the second half when a sumptuous cross from Harrison Reed found the Serbian in the box but, instead of opting to head at goal, the 26-year old chested the ball down which gave Geoff Cameron the chance to clear the danger.
The best opportunity yet to break the deadlock came just after the 50-minute mark, and it fell at the feet of Bonne after the Fulham defence failed to deal with a dangerous ball from Todd Kane but the former Leyton Orient striker yanked his half-volley over the bar from about ten yards out.
In all honesty the first-half had petered towards its conclusion, but the energy of the opening stages was restored after the break. Fulham strode forward again, and this time Loftus-Cheek teed up the onrushing Bryan who skipped past Dickie but saw his right-footed effort fall comfortably into Dieng's grasp.
With just over an hour on the clock, a superb lofted pass from Onomah set Cavaleiro through on goal, but the forward took too long to get his shot aay and eventually teed up Mitrovic in space on the other side; the striker's effort was in turn blocked on the line by Yoann Barbet in a real let-off for the hosts.
Rodak was then forced into two crucial saves in a matter of moments, first denying Bonne from close range before Dominic Ball fizzed a strike across goal in the next phase; it could have been heading into the net but for a crucial stop from the goalkeeper.
In a near-carbon copy of Cavaleiro's chance earlier in the match, Dykes was unleashed behind the Fulham defence by a clearance from Dieng, but his right-footed shot soared high and wide of Rodak's goal and, somehow, it remained 0-0.
QPR spurned yet another opportunity with about 14 minutes of regulation time to play. A brilliant cross from Osayi-Samuel caught the entire Fulham defence off guard but neither Dykes nor substitute Charlie Kelman could get a foot to it.
So, so many chances but no breakthrough yet; surely the 90 minutes wouldn't end goalless?
As we headed into stoppage time, Decordova-Reid darted from inside his own half as a chance to trouble Dieng looked to be emerging, but Barbet caught up to the 27-year old really well and ultimately shepherded the ball out of play.
The score did indeed remain at 0-0 after 90 minutes, despite either side having an abundance of chances to break the deadlock — extra time, and possibly penalties, would be the only way to separate them.
Aina had a half-chance early in the first period though Dieng was barely troubled, and moments later Dykes then attempted to knock the ball down for Kelman in the box to no avail.
Another gilt-edged opportunity went begging for Fulham on 100 minutes; an inch-perfect cross from Bryan found Decordova-Reid on the penalty spot, but the forward's glancing header bounced just wide of the far post with the goalkeeper stranded; he really should have scored there.
He made amends just moments later though, and in some style; having exchanged a neat one-two with Mitrovic on the edge of the area, Decordova-Reid struck first-time and watched in delight as his shot nestled into the bottom corner with Dieng at full-stretch.
At last, in the 104th minute, we had our goal.
And it was two before the first half of extra time came to a close — patient build-up from Fulham eventually saw Onomah tee up Neeskens Kebano, and the Congolese forward made no mistake from about eight yards out. Game, set and match in a matter of moments.
Fulham had visibly found their second wind, and their resurgence allowed them to steady the ship as QPR struggled to create any chances of note in the final 15 minutes.
It was a game decided by a sudden and timely burst of energy from Fulham and, in all honesty, one marked by a great deal of wastefulness from both sides in regulation time.
Takeaways from the match
Positional gap far from noticeable
Knowing that one of these sides currently sits 18th in the Premier League and the other 20th in the second tier, it was hard to distinguish which was which as QPR matched their visitors in pretty much every aspect.
They created a multitude of chances and certainly deserved to take their visitors to extra time, but ultimately paid the full price for their profligacy as they bowed out to their west London rivals who advance to the fourth round.
Fulham rusty on their return to action
It was two weeks since their most recent fixture, with many first-team players unable to train properly having returned positive tests for COVID-19, and you could tell this was Fulham's first taste of football in a while. 120 minutes probably did them good here, even if they would have preferred to get the job done within the 90.
Couple that with starts for players who have rarely featured this campaign and you're bound to have a disjointed display, but all that will matter to Parker and his squad is the victory and the return to Premier League action in six days' time.
Queens Park Rangers: Dieng; Dickie, Cameron (Masterson 91'), Barbet; Kane, Ball, Carroll (Bettache 80'), Osayi-Samuel (Hamalainen 91'); Chair (Thomas 80'); Dykes, Bonne (Kelman 72').
Subs not used: Barnes, Willock, Adomah.
Fulham: Rodak; Aina, Ream, Kongolo (Hector 66'); Tete (Odoi 91'), Onomah, Reed (Kebano 76'), Loftus-Cheek (Robinson 91'), Bryan; Mitrovic, Cavaleiro (Decordova-Reid 66').
Subs not used: Ramirez, Adarabioyo, Carvalho, Jasper.
Following defeat here, QPR return to Championship action as they travel to Luton Town on Tuesday evening.
Fulham, meanwhile, have another west London derby to look forward to as they face nearby neighbours Chelsea in the Premier League on Friday.