This study develops a method coupling the finite element method (FEM) and the scaled boundary finite element method (SBFEM) for fully-automatic modelling of cohesive crack growth in quasi-brittle materials. The simple linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM)-based remeshing procedure developed previously is augmented by inserting nonlinear interface finite elements automatically. The constitutive law of these elements is modelled by the cohesive/fictitious crack model to simulate the fracture process zone, while the elastic bulk material is modelled by the SBFEM. The resultant nonlinear equation system is solved by a local arc-length controlled solver. The crack is assumed to grow when the mode-l stress intensity factor K, vanishes in the direction determined by LEFM criteria. Other salient algorithms associated with the SBFEM, such as mapping state variables after remeshing and calculating K, using a "shadow subdomain", are also described. Two concrete beams subjected to mode-I and mixed-mode fracture respectively are modelled to validate the new method. The results show that this SBFEM-FEM coupled method is capable of fully-automatically predicting both satisfactory crack trajectories and accurate load-displacement relations with a small number of degrees of freedom, even for problems with strong snap-back. Parametric studies were carried out on the crack incremental length, the concrete tensile strength, and the mode-I and mode-II fracture energies. It is found that the K-I >= 0 criterion is objective with respect to the crack incremental length. (C) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.