In this work, a novel standalone monolithic diffusion layer (SMDL) was fabricated by a low cost axial compression process, using a die-cast mould at room temperature. The fabricated SMDL consisted of carbon black and PTFE, designed for use in proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC). The SMDLs formed were crack free, with a desired thickness of 200 μm. The SMDL integrated features of micro porous and gas diffusion layers, with tri-modal pore distribution, including macro pores. The SMDLs had sufficient flexibility, compression stability assessed under simulated cell conditions, adequate in-plane conductivity and low contact resistance. The performance of the SMDLs, tested in a single fuel cell, revealed minimal sensitivity to change in humidity under wet and asymmetric flooded conditions. The fabricated SMDLs peak power density value of 0.25 W cm-2 obtained was comparable with that of the standard sample. They were found to be better suited to accommodate spatial as well as temporal variations in humidity experienced in PEMFCs. © 2019 IOP Publishing Ltd.