Moments of brilliance from Josh Onomah and Neeskens Kebano gave Fulham a 2-0 win at Cardiff and the upper hand in their Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final.
Fulham were establishing command when Onomah came up with a 49th-minute solo goal and Kebano doubled the lead with a superb free-kick in stoppage time.
There appeared to be no danger to Cardiff four minutes after the restart with Onomah 18 yards out and his back to goal.
But the former Tottenham midfielder turned Marlon Pack and rounded both Sean Morrison and Curtis Nelson before slotting past goalkeeper Alex Smithies.
It was no more than Fulham deserved as Scott Parker's men underlined their reputation as the best passing side in the Championship and Cardiff - who finished one place and eight points worse off than the visitors in the regular season - struggled to lay a glove on them.
Fulham were weakened by the absence of Aleksandar Mitrovic, the Championship's top scorer, and Parker explained pre-match that he had to make a "calculated decision" to keep the 26-goal Serbia international in contention for the rest of the play-offs.
Mitrovic's absence meant Bobby Decordova-Reid, who left Cardiff for west London last August, filled a more forward role as midfielder Harry Arter also missed out.
It was a lively start from both sides, but Cardiff carried the greater attacking intent in what was an open contest.
Fulham settled into their rhythm and Cardiff switched off at the far post to leave Onomah unmarked from Kebano's cross. But Smithies came to Cardiff's rescue by flying off his line and spreading himself to save.
Fulham started the second half as they finished the first and, buoyed by Onomah's marvellous solo effort, went close again when Decordova-Reid rifled just over from 20 yards.
Morrison body-checked Tom Cairney late on and Kebano curled home the resulting free-kick from 20 yards, handing Fulham a significant advantage before the return leg at Craven Cottage tomorrow.