The EFL play-off finals will be played this weekend at Wembley as the English domestic season reaches its traditional, nail-biting conclusion.
Here Press Association Sport looks back at 10 of the most memorable moments.
The first year of the play-offs threw up a two-legged final between mighty but ailing Wolves and tiny Aldershot, who had finished nine points behind them in the Fourth Division standings. Despite Shots striker Bobby Barnes admitting they were “in awe” of their opponents, they prevailed in style, following up a 2-0 first leg win with a 1-0 triumph in front of almost 20,000 at Molineux three days later.
Gary Bennett’s first-half own goal appeared to have gifted Swindon a place in the top flight for the first time in their history in an unremarkable game at Wembley. But the drama was to follow the final whistle, as Swindon were subsequently handed a double demotion for breaching Football League rules, and the Black Cats became the first and only team to lose a play-off final and still – ultimately – find themselves promoted.
Just three years after their controversial demotion, Swindon were back in the play-off final – and this time they booked their place in the top flight in style. An opening goal from player-manager Glenn Hoddle saw them cruise into a 3-0 lead only for the Foxes to pull level in a stunning 12-minute spell in the second half. But Swindon held their nerve and sealed their belated ascent through Paul Bodin’s late penalty.
Stuart Lovell’s missed penalty after 34 minutes proved crucial as Bolton struck back to clinch victory in extra-time. Reading dominated the early stages and led 3-0 but Lovell’s miss changed the course of the game. Owen Coyle and Fabian de Freitas pulled Bolton level and Mixu Paatelainen gave the Trotters the lead in extra-time. De Freitas’ second effectively sealed Bolton’s win before shell-shocked Reading grabbed a late consolation.
Arguably the greatest of all play-off finals saw Charlton striker Clive Mendonca, a lifelong Sunderland fan, score the first hat-trick in a play-off final as the Addicks battled back from behind three times to force a penalty shoot-out. The first 13 spot-kicks were all scored before Michael Gray’s effort was saved by Charlton keeper Sasa Ilic, sealing a dramatic victory for Alan Curbishley’s men, and leaving the Sunderland-born Gray inconsolable.
City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver proved the hero, charging the length of the Wembley pitch in celebration after saving two Gillingham penalties and completing his side’s stunning comeback. City trailed 2-0 going into the final minute of normal time before Kevin Horlock struck what appeared to be a consolation goal. But Paul Dickov netted in the fifth minute of injury time to force the extra half-hour and ultimately, the penalty drama.
There was no more fitting a figure to end Hull’s quest for a place in the top flight for the first time in their history than home city hero Dean Windass, who lashed home a powerful first-half finish to ensure his place in the history books at the age of 39. The tiring Windass had been substituted after 71 minutes but he found plenty of replacement energy when he raced back onto the pitch at the final whistle to celebrate with his team-mates.
Alex Revell scored one of the great play-off goals against his former club as the Millers fought back from 2-0 down to force extra-time and penalties. Revell let fly with a dipping effort from 35 yards to haul his side back on level terms and send boss Steve Evans charging down the touchline in delight. There was a final twist in the shoot-out as Adam Collin saved two Orient spot-kicks to seal Rotherham’s promotion.
It was not so much the routine win that mattered, but the journey towards it as goals from Lyle Taylor and Adebayo Akinfenwa sealed Wimbledon’s sixth promotion since their formation in 2002 by fans of the old Wimbledon FC. Robbed of a club to call their own by the controversial move to Milton Keynes, long-time fans of the 1988 FA Cup winners had every reason to celebrate their side’s triumph back in the Wembley sun.
Huddersfield’s scarcely believable season under David Wagner ended in glory as Christopher Schindler kept his nerve from the penalty spot to seal his side’s promotion back to the top flight for the first time since 1972. The Terriers, who had thrilled throughout the regular season but appeared destined to fall short, had previously squeezed through their semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday also on penalties.