A solitary goal from Peter Crouch was enough to send Stoke City into the League Cup fourth round with a 1-0 win at Fulham.
Crouch combined cleverly with Geoff Cameron to open the scoring just past the half-hour mark as the Premier League side edged a first half short on quality.
Fulham responded well in the second period and were denied by the crossbar late on, but Shay Given went largely untested behind a resolute Stoke defence, with Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele spurning excellent openings.
Mark Hughes’ side ultimately held firm to progress at Craven Cottage – as well as secure their first victory this season since a penalty shootout triumph over Luton Town in August in the previous round.
Alexander Kacaniklic forced Given into a strong save after 13 minutes, but chances were few and far between before Crouch opened the scoring.
The former Liverpool striker played a one-two with Cameron and showed great strength and composure to slot into the bottom corner from 12 yards.
Fulham started the second half brightly, Ben Pringle and Jazz Richards coming close before McCormack failed to connect properly with a promising Pringle cross.
Dembele wasted a clear chance as he blazed over after collecting Ryan Tunnicliffe’s header down and Peter Odemwingie should have made Fulham pay, but he somehow contrived to chip over after being played clean through by Marko Arnautovic.
Given was almost punished for a sloppy late clearance as Lasse Vigen Christensen fired a lob just wide, and the midfielder was then denied by the veteran Stoke goalkeeper with a smart stop at the far post.
Dan Burn then rattled the crossbar in the dying seconds with a fierce left-footed shot from just inside the area, but Stoke held on for the win and a place in round four.