It wasn’t until 1903/04 that Fulham, then in the First Division of the Southern League, passed through all seven Preliminary Qualifying Rounds to make their debut in the First Round of the FA Cup. The eighth game was one too many as Woolwich Arsenal won 1-0.
Football League status was achieved in 1907 and in their first season in Division Two, Fulham’s FA Cup campaign began with an 8-3 victory at Southern League Luton Town, a scoreline which remains the Club's best away win in the competition.
Fulham then defeated non-League Norwich City, First Division title challengers Manchester City and Manchester United but lost to Newcastle United in the Semi-Final.
In 1936, Fulham again reached the Semi-Final, only to go down to a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United.
In 1938/9, Fulham defeated Bury 6-0 in an all-Second Division Third-Round tie at the Cottage. Ronnie Rooke scored all six goals for the Whites, a feat that has not been equalled since – in league or cup.
In 1958, Fulham lost to Manchester United in the FA Cup Semi-Final after a replay, a game that came less than two months after the Munich disaster.
It was a similar story four years later, when First Division Fulham again fell at the penultimate hurdle after a defeat to Burnley.
It was a long time coming but, when Second Division Fulham finally made it through to the FA Cup Final in 1975, it was well worth the wait.
And, in typical Fulham fashion, they took the longest and hardest route.
Every one of the five ties that were won on the way to Wembley were away from the Cottage, and no club, before or since, has played as many matches to get there. It took seven games to dispose of Hull City and Nottingham Forest, before a victory over First Division table-toppers Everton in the Fifth Round.
A win over Carlisle United in Round Six put the Cottagers up against their third opponents from the top flight, Birmingham City, in the Semi-Final, with John Mitchell’s scrappy 119th-minute goal in a replay sending Alec Stock’s men through to Wembley.
For many, the Final itself was anti-climatic, West Ham United winning 2-0 to take the trophy against a Fulham side that included former Hammers captain Bobby Moore in their starting XI.
Third Division Fulham set an FA Cup record in 1995/6 when they thrashed Second Division Swansea City in a First-Round tie at the Cottage. Mick Conroy lead the charge with a hat-trick and the scoreline remains the largest-winning margin in the competition by a club over opponents from a higher division.
So Close Once Again
It wasn’t until the 2001/02 season that Fulham, now back in the top flight, made a mark on the FA Cup again when they reached the last four after disposing of Wycombe Wanderers, York City, Walsall and West Bromwich Albion.
They met bitter rivals Chelsea at Villa Park in the Semi-Final but a John Terry effort was enough to win the game for the Blues.
Another 10 years on, Fulham’s search for cup success continues…