Charlton Athletic scored with virtually the last kick of the game as they recovered from conceding an extraordinary early own goal to beat Sunderland in the League One play-off final at Wembley.
Addicks defender Patrick Bauer had an initial header blocked from a cross, but was on hand to scramble home the rebound to take them up to the Championship after three years in the third tier.
Early on, Charlton centre-back Naby Sarr’s powerful backpass was completely missed by goalkeeper Dillon Phillips, who watched the ball roll into his net as he chased back in vain.
But Lee Bowyer’s side got a foothold in the game and levelled when Lyle Taylor put in a low cross for Ben Purrington tap in at the back post, before Bauer’s match-winning intervention in the 94th minute.
Defeats means Sunderland, relegated in each of the past two seasons, are resigned to a second year in League One after a second Wembley final defeat in the space of 56 days.
The game looked destined for extra-time after a second half with no meaningful efforts on target, but a Charlton overload at the back post in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time gave Bauer two opportunities to score a thrilling winner.
The Black Cats could have had a bigger lead before they were pegged back, having a penalty appeal turned down when Charlie Wyke’s half-volley struck Bauer on the arm in the box, before Grant Leadbitter saw his low shot from 25 yards tipped wide by Phillips.
Charlton’s sluggish start was not limited to Phillips and Sarr, though their mix-up may have contributed to a first 20 minutes when nobody in a red shirt seemed to settle.
Leading scorer Taylor had already showed signs of causing danger before his involvement in some slick one-touch play with Anfernee Dijksteel and Joe Aribo, ending with him crossing for Purrington’s equaliser – the wing-back’s first goal for the club.
Sarr was replaced at the interval by Jason Pearce after an eventful half in which he was also booked, and it sparked a change in play for Bowyer’s side, with Krystian Bielik moving into midfield.
Sunderland hoped the introduction of influential playmaker Aiden McGeady would inspire them to victory, but the winger struggled to raise a side that was unable to create anything of note.
In many ways, the final may still be remembered for Sarr’s calamitous own goal, which came under no pressure and as a result of a lapse in concentration from Phillips, who totally misjudged the path of the ball.
Bowyer leads Charlton to Championship
At the end of another season of off-field discontent and protests against owner Roland Duchatalet, Charlton fans have a promotion to celebrate.
On the pitch, Bowyer was doing his best to steady the Charlton ship, though at the turn of the year the Addicks were only clinging onto the final League One play-off spot.
Their promotion ambitions looked to have taken a hefty blow when 14-goal striker Karlan Grant left for Premier League Huddersfield in January, but fellow forward Lyle Taylor relished the extra responsibility.
Bowyer’s side finished the regular season with 10 wins from 13 games to finish third – just three points from an automatic promotion spot – and laboured past Doncaster to make it back to Wembley for the first time since their famous final victory over Sunderland in 1998.
This one might not have had as many goals as the 4-4 between the two sides 21 years ago, but matched it for drama with the bizarre own goal and Bauer’s last-gasp winner ensuring the same winners.
More Wembley heartbreak for Sunderland
It is now seven Wembley visits without victory for Sunderland, who last won at the national stadium in the 1973 FA Cup final, and they have suffered the same fate as Shrewsbury – who also lost in both the League One play-off final and Checkatrade Trophy final last season.
This time last year, the Black Cats were going through a period of drastic change off the field following back-to-back relegations from the Premier League into League One.
Ross had just been named the club’s 11th full-time boss in less than 10 years, with Stewart Donald taking over a club that still had several expensive flops on their books.
Sunderland were in or around the automatic promotion spots from the very start of the season, but the loss of 16-goal top scorer Josh Maja in January threatened to derail their campaign.
The £4m deadline-day acquisition of Northern Ireland striker Will Grigg signalled their ambition to secure an instant return to the Championship, but despite losing the fewest games in the EFL, they drew 19 times as they limped to a fifth-place finish.
Chairman Donald in talks with potential investors but it will be interesting to see if their failure to gain promotion will have an adverse affect on their search for more financial backing.