With something riding on all but one of the last 12 games of the championship season, it was always likely to be a roller coaster until the finish.
But what happened in a remarkable few hours on Wednesday will be remembered for a long time.
Here’s a roundup of how things turned out …
Leeds et West Brom
Three teams remained in the race to join champions Leeds in the automatic promotion spots. In the end, it was second-placed West Bromwich Albion who had the courage and stamina to stand up to Brentford and Fulham.
The equation was simple – the Baggies were one point ahead of Brentford and two over Fulham with a greater goal difference. The pressure was on both West London clubs to improve West Brom’s result and hope the other’s result went their way.
In fact, all three teams scored one goal. Wigan first scored to go 1-0 against Fulham, then QPR went past West Brom at The Hawthorns.
Brentford, who by then was still scoreless against relegation-threatened Barnsley and up to second place, couldn’t take advantage.
The Bees went behind in Callum Styles’ opener for the Tykes, and Grady Diangana equalized for West Brom in their game just before the break. Advantage Baggies.
Callum Robinson scored to give Slaven Bilic’s Albion the lead after half-time but Eberechi Eze’s spectacular strike equalized Rangers. In Wigan, Neeskens Kebano leveled things off for Fulham.
Thomas Frank’s Brentford were the in-form squad in recent weeks, winning eight games to propel themselves into the auto-mix before losing to Stoke on Saturday, and Josh Dasilva’s equalizer gave them the lead again with 17 minutes remaining. the end. At this point, all three promotion prospects were tied, but West Brom was still second.
The crucial goal came at Griffin Park, but it wasn’t for Brentford. Instead, in the stoppage time Kenyan Clarke Oduor returned Patrick Schmidt’s cross to stun the hosts, save Barnsley and ensure West Brom returned to the Premier League after two seasons away.
Brentford, Fulham, Cardiff et Swansea
The race for the last two places in the play-offs was probably the least exciting part of the final round before. One to watch halfway. Nottingham Forest and Cardiff were pretty much there. Swansea were the rank outsiders. Or that’s what we thought.
Steve Cooper’s side needed a win and a six-goal swing to make their way into the top six and relied on the already safe Stoke to give them a helping hand against Forest. This is exactly what the Potters did.
Forest started off three points clear of Swansea, but their 4-1 loss to Stoke and the Swans’ own 4-1 win over Reading knocked Forest down from fifth to seventh.
What started as an unlikely chase for a top six spot ended with that secure position and with a goal to spare as well.
Swansea finished sixth and will now meet Brentford in the play-offs semifinals, starting with the first leg at Liberty Stadium on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Cardiff will host opposition from West London on Monday when they face Fulham.
The Bluebirds comfortably beat Hull, who finished low, to secure a play-off spot, while Fulham’s slim automatic promotion chances were halted after a 1-1 draw with Wigan, a result that also relegated their opponents by virtue of their 12- point deduction for entry into administration.
Charlton, Wigan et Hull
Barnsley’s late winner at Brentford saw them pull off a miraculous escape and meant Hull City and Charlton Athletic were joined in the final three by Wigan. This prevents a successful appeal against their deduction of 12 points to enter administration.
The Latics would still have avoided the fall if they had managed to beat Fulham, but they were unable to find a winner despite creating plenty of chances in a 1-1 draw.
Hull’s hopes of securing their survival have always been slimmer than slim and they will play League 1 football next season for the first time since 2005 after their play-off loss to Cardiff City which left them at the bottom of the listing.
The fact that even a victory would not have saved them from falling will be little consolation.
Charlton’s loss on the final day was perhaps the most predictable as they were beaten by champions Leeds United.
Ultimately, a win would have seen them far from the bottom three, but that was never likely as they were outmatched en route to a 4-0 mayhem at Elland Road.
Luton Town and Middlesbrough, who beat Blackburn Rovers and Sheffield on Wednesday respectively, as well as Birmingham, which lost at home to County Derby, were given welcome stays on the final day.
Remarkably, none of the teams in the last five on July 2 ended up being relegated. Luton, Barnsley, Stoke, Huddersfield and Middlesbrough have all managed to clear off any trouble with six games to go.
Leeds crowned champions
Play-off schedule (every BST hour)
Semi-final first leg
- Sunday July 26 – Swansea v Brentford – 6.30 p.m.
- Monday July 27 – Cardiff v Fulham – 7.45 p.m.
- Wednesday July 29 – Brentford v Swansea – 7:45 p.m.
- Thursday July 30 – Fulham v Cardiff – 7.45 p.m.
Final (Wembley Stadium)
- Tuesday August 4 – Brentford or Swansea v Fulham or Cardiff – 7.45 p.m.