The final day of the Championship season produced some quite astonishing narrative at both ends of the table.
Brighton sneaked into the play-offs at the expense of Reading after an injury-time winner away at Nottingham Forest, while at the other end Birmingham secured their survival with a 93rd-minute equaliser against Bolton—a result that relegated Doncaster Rovers, who lost 1-0 at champions Leicester.
|Barnsley vs. Queens Park Rangers||2-3|
|Blackburn vs. Wigan||4-3|
|Blackpool vs. Charlton||0-3|
|Bolton Wanderers vs. Birmingham City||2-2|
|Ipswich vs. Sheffield Wednesday||2-1|
|Leeds United vs. Derby County||1-1|
|Leicester City vs. Doncaster Rovers||1-0|
|Millwall vs. Bournemouth||1-0|
|Nottingham Forest vs. Brighton & Hove Albion||1-2|
|Reading vs. Burnley||2-2|
|Watford vs. Huddersfield Town||1-4|
|Yeovil vs. Middlesbrough||1-4|
|Brighton v Derby (First Leg)||Thursday May 8||7:45 p.m. BST/2:45 p.m. ET|
|Wigan v QPR (First Leg)||Friday May 9||7:45 p.m. BST/2:45 p.m. ET|
|Derby v Brighton (Second Leg)||Sunday May 11||5:15 p.m. BST/12:15 p.m. ET|
|QPR v Wigan (Second Leg)||Monday May 12||7:45 p.m. BST/2:45 p.m. ET|
|Teams TBC||Saturday May 24||TBC|
Both Leicester City and Burnley had already confirmed their place back in the Premier League before the final weekend's fixtures.
Sean Dyche's clarets have been unstoppable throughout the campaign and the manager was in awe of the achievement of going up automatically, per BBC Sport:
To do it automatically having amassed the points we have, with a low budget and using 22 players is incredible. It's a marker in history.
[...] To guide a group of people, when I am still learning and developing, is a major achievement for me, the staff, the players and the club.
Key to their rise has been the goalscoring exploits of both Danny Ings and Sam Vokes. Between them, they have amassed 40 of Burnley's 70 goals per WhoScored.com and will likely be a force to be reckoned with during the Clarets' first Premier League campaign for four years.
With 31 wins from their 46 games, 83 goals and a mammoth 102 points, Leicester are worthy title winners.
A 10-year absence from the top division is far too long for a club of the Foxes' stature, and they will be a welcome addition at the top table of English football.
Nigel Pearson brings a wealth of experience to the role, and with a squad that has a mixture of experience and youth he is well equipped to take the team to the next level.
Barnsley's Danny Wilson was left devastated at his side's relegation to the third tier of English football, exactly 17 years to the day after they were promoted to the Premier League. Per The Yorkshire Post, Wilson noted:
It’s hard to explain how I feel right now, but I feel empty. It’s a difficult feeling to put into words how we feel right now.
We are down and we are disappointed but we prolonged it for longer than people expected it. [...] It was a brave effort but this game summed up our season. We’ve not scored enough goals.
The Tykes have endured a topsy-turvy season, and a win at Middlesbrough would've taken their fight to the last match. The 3-1 defeat condemned them to relegation, and they will have to pick themselves up and dust themselves down ready for an promotion assault next term.
Doncaster fell out of the second tier on the last day after a painful defeat to Leicester. It looked for all the world that they would secure another season at this level until an incredible fight back from Birmingham.
Trailing 2-0 at Bolton with 12 minutes to play, Nikola Zigic gave Lee Clark's side hope with a towering header. At 90 minutes, Birmingham were halfway through the trapdoor when up popped Paul Caddis in the 93rd minute to head the ball home and send the travelling crowd delirious.
As so often happens in these scenarios, however, form goes out of the window as the knockout format throws up surprises galore.
Harry Redknapp's Queens Park Rangers will probably be under the most pressure to return to the big time. Redknapp has signed 19 players this season and still failed to deliver automatic promotion.
Samar Maguire of The Guardian noted the precarious position the club may find themselves in should they stay put in the Championship:
Fans were made aware recently of QPR's financial state that showed the need for promotion.
Teams in the second tier next season not adhering to the Football League's financial fair play regulations will be subject to transfer embargoes.
A team promoted to the top flight will face only a fine, which could be a crucial factor for the stability of the west-London club.
Wigan have been wonderfully stewarded by Uwe Rosler since he took over from Owen Coyle earlier in the season.
Just three wins in the last nine per WhoScored.com hint at a team that are struggling, but as their performance against Arsenal in the semi-final of the FA Cup showed, Rosler's charges have a "never say die" attitude.
It could be that sort of work ethic that drives them onto glory.
Joining them are Brighton and Hove Albion, who had to wait until the final day of the season to secure their place in the play-offs. As with Birmingham's last-minute heroics, Brighton had to wait until the dying seconds of injury time and a goal from Leonardo Ulloa to win their game at Nottingham Forest by 2-1.
But for Ulloa's intervention, Reading would have claimed the final play-off place having drawn 2-2 against promoted Burnley.
Brighton now join Derby, Queens Park Rangers and Wigan in the race to see who will claim world football's richest prize and a place in the Premier League.