Sunderland have won the League One play-offs for the third time, beating Wycombe Wanderers at Wembley to end their four-year spell in England’s third tier.
Wembley was deafening as 46,000 Sunderland fans and 22,000 Wycombe fans roared in hopes their side would join already promoted Rotherham United and Wigan Athletic in the Championship.
A single point separated the Chairboys and Black Cats going into the deciding clash, their last meeting in the league ending 3-3 in a close game at Adam’s Park.
Both managers Gareth Ainsworth and Alex Neil have previously earned promotions at Wembley, the former doing so with Wycombe in 2020 and the latter with Norwich City in 2015.
The tie also marked the first use of VAR in a League One play-off final, leaving plenty of room for a few twists in play-off history.
The Mackems came out of the traps almost instantly, with Pritchard’s free kick narrowly past the goal.
And soon enough, Sunderland’s early dominance paid off.
Sunderland academy graduate Elliot Embleton charged down the middle of the field to smash the ball in from outside the box.
Sunderland vs Wycombe LIVE: Reaction as Black Cats seal Championship return
Class of Frankfurt show with a full-page advert wishing Rangers luck in the Scottish Cup final
Flares, fireworks, dancing in the fountains – Sunderland fans take over Trafalgar Square
Gareth Bale misses ‘bitter’ Bernabeu farewell but leaves as a trophy-laden legend
Conte responds to Tottenham food poisoning claims, offers Kane update
Fans ‘drinking under sprinklers’ show Sevilla ‘not worthy’ of another grand final
The 23-year-old’s effort went straight through Wycombe goalkeeper David Stockdale, who was uncharacteristically caught like a rabbit in the headlights as the youngster came towards him.
Sunderland goalkeeper Anthony Patterson remained relatively carefree throughout the first half, making a hand full of comfortable saves as Wycombe tried to break free from his own half.
After half-time, Alex Neil’s side struggled to regain their superiority, as Wycombe came back strong after the restart.
Chairboys top scorer Sam Vokes had a golden chance after a Black Cats defensive error as the clock ticked to 60 minutes but ultimately couldn’t get the hit as he wanted to run the ball over Paterson .
Shortly after, Sunderland beckoned a penalty, with the Wearsiders only awarded a corner after VAR came on stream for the first time in the encounter.
As the match entered the final 15 minutes, Ainsworth unleashed EFL legend Adebayo Akinfenwa, with the 40-year-old scoring his last game before retiring from his 20-year career.
But, unfortunately for the Buckinghamshire team, bringing their talisman to a fairy tale ending didn’t have the impact they would have liked.
Shortly after Akinfenwa was substituted, Sunderland’s Ross Stewart kicked the ball in from the edge of the box to send it through Wycombe’s defense in the bottom corner – scoring his fifth goal against the Chairboys this season.
The Black Cats have long associated Wembley with grief and had failed in their two previous attempts to climb out of the division via the play-offs.
And Saturday’s victory was truly an example of three times a charm, with the former Premier League side ending their Wembley hoodoo to secure promotion back to the Championship for the first time in four years.
Finally, Sunderland have shaken off their Ligue 1 shackles.
bet of the weekend
Sky Bet: 1+ corner taken by each team in each half of 10 PL games @ 200/1 – BET HERE
18+. Terms and conditions apply. begambleaware.org