West Bromwich Albion kept their automatic promotion hopes in their own hands despite a goalless draw against play-off bound Fulham at The Hawthorns.
Baggies defender Ahmed Hegazi made a crucial clearance to turn away Ivan Cavaleiro’s header back across goal from in front of his own line in an otherwise cagey first half.
Visiting keeper Marek Rodak denied Grady Diangana from close range after the break, while Albion defender Semi Ajayi sent two headers from corners narrowly off target.
Fulham winger Anthony Knockaert then struck the crossbar with a dipping half-volley from outside the area, but the result means the west Londoners’ chances of a top-two finish in the Championship are almost over.
West Brom, in second, are four points above third-placed Brentford having played a game more, while Fulham are five points below automatic promotion with two games to play.
Baggies edge closer to Premier League return
West Brom went into the game needing seven points from their final three fixtures to secure promotion to the Premier League, while Fulham realistically needed victory in the West Midlands to stay in the hunt for a top-two finish.
The situation made for a tense opening 45 minutes, but the game sprung into life in the final half hour, as Diangana saw his stabbed left-footed effort go narrowly wide after a crucial touch from Slovakian keeper Rodak.
As the influence of Baggies playmaker Matheus Pereira grew, Fulham midfielder Harrison Reed made a brilliant challenge to block a shot from Hal Robson-Kanu with the Wales international about to shoot inside the box.
Third-placed Brentford could move a point behind West Brom if they beat Preston North End on Wednesday (17:00 BST).
But Albion know that wins in their final two games against struggling Huddersfield Town and mid-table Queens Park Rangers will see Slaven Bilic’s men return to the top flight after a two-year absence.
Fulham resigned to play-off challenge
Fulham were among the pre-season favourites for automatic promotion and an immediate return to the Premier League, but the Whites have not been in the top two at any point this season.
Back-to-back defeats by west London rivals Brentford and Championship leaders Leeds straight after the season resumed left them seven points off the top two.
Fulham responded well with four successive wins to close the gap before their trip to West Brom, but the visitors were unable to break down a stubborn defence as they lacked inspiration and cutting edge in the final third.
Knockaert’s long-range effort was the closest they came to breaking the deadlock, although Aleksandar Mitrovic, the Championship’s joint-top scorer this season, sent two headers from corners narrowly off target before the break.
The Whites will now face mid-table Sheffield Wednesday and an in-form Wigan Athletic side who are still hunting points to secure their place in the Championship for next season, with the Latics potentially facing a 12-point deduction for entering administration.
Fulham won promotion to the Premier League two years ago via the play-offs and Scott Parker’s side, who need two more points to secure home advantage in the second leg of the semi-finals, will need to repeat the feat to go back up.