Fulham hold off Cardiff City to reach Championship playoff final
Clive Rose / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Fulham are one step away from an immediate return to the Premier League.

The Cottagers barely held on for a 3-2 aggregate win over Cardiff City in a tense semifinal clash, booking their place in the Championship playoff final. Scott Parker and Co. claimed a massive 2-0 win in the first leg earlier this week, narrowly squeaking through after Thursday's 2-1 defeat at Craven Cottage.

The slender aggregate victory sets up a tantalizing meeting with Brentford on Aug. 4 at Wembley, with the winner securing a coveted - and lucrative - place in the Premier League next season.

The playoff final is billed as the richest game in world football, with promotion to the top flight worth an estimated £170 million.

In the end, Neeskens Kebano's goal in the ninth minute was the decisive blow on Thursday. Cardiff came flying out of the gate, opening the scoring through Curtis Nelson in just the eighth minute of action.

Fulham came back down almost immediately and restored their two-goal aggregate advantage, as Kebano got onto the end of a low cross from Bobby Reid to negate Nelson's tally just seconds earlier.

However, the 28-year-old, who now has five goals in his last four matches, had to leave the game at halftime and is a serious injury doubt for the final after he was seen on the sidelines limping with his left leg bandaged.

Fulham, already without Championship Golden Boot winner Aleksandar Mitrovic due to a hamstring injury, were forced to hang on for dear life after Lee Tomlin smashed home a close-range effort in the 47th minute.

Needing just one more goal to force extra time, Cardiff pushed for the remainder of the contest, creating havoc inside the hosts' penalty area through a series of long throw-ins and set pieces.

They had a glorious chance in the waning minutes, but striker Robert Glatzel blazed a stoppage-time strike over the bar.

Fulham managed to survive, and will now have to quickly regroup and hope to get healthy ahead of next week's meeting with Brentford. For their part, the Bees - who will arrive at Wembley on the fresher side after enjoying an extra 24 hours of rest - are aiming to return to the top flight for the first time since 1947.

Fulham hold off Cardiff City to reach Championship playoff final
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