the possibility of ignominy. Only six inches separated them from the latter and the same early elimination as their top-flight cousins: Tottenham, Portsmouth and Manchester City.
With the score at 2-2 and five minutes from the end of normal time substitute Marvin Robinson could only find the crossbar, ensuring extra time in this second-round Carling Cup tie. His goal in the extra period made it 4-4 but it was not enough, as Brian McBride finally put out the League Two side in the last minute.
If Robinson had scored they would surely have joined Doncaster, Gillingham and Grimsby from the Football League as giant-killers in the draw for the next round. Even after Robinson's miss, Gary Birch had an opportunity in normal time that was palmed away by Fulham's error-prone Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo Batista.
Robinson's miss was key. With the momentum of the equaliser - a Moritz Volz own goal just after he had been introduced - the former Derby striker had his chance from 12 yards but opted for power over placement and struck the frame of the goal.
Chris Coleman's decision to change the entire team rebounded on him as Fulham's extra-time lead was pulled back again. From 4-2 up, they let Lincoln back into the match when goals from Scott Kerr and then Robinson ensured parity once more. But Adam Green's free-kick on to McBride's head finally undid the visitors. The only shame was that just over 5,300 fans were watching.
Fulham's first came after 26 minutes as Heidar Helguson crossed for Zesh Rehman, who headed past Alan Marriott. Four minutes later Fulham had doubled their lead and seemed set for a comfortable win. Collins John saw his shot saved but Helguson tapped in from three yards.
With 20 minutes remaining Lincoln gave themselves hope as Francis Green's first-time shot beat Batista. Twelve minutes later Green crossed and Volz, with his first touch as a substitute, turned the ball over his own goal-line.
Three minutes into extra time Liam Rosenior tapped in from a yard and Tomasz Radzinski restored the two-goal lead two minutes later before Lincoln came again.
Fulham (3-5-2): Batista; Leacock (Radzinski, 62), Goma, Green; Rosenior, Christanval, Rehman (Volz, 81), Elrich, Timlin; Helguson, John (McBride, 72). Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), Milsom.
Lincoln City (4-3-3): Marriott; Cryan, McAuley, Morgan, Beevers (Robinson, 74); Kerr, Keats (Mayo, 78), Brown; Molango, Birch, Green. Substitutes not used: Asamoah, Bloomer, Ryan.
Referee: K Stroud (Dorset).
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