Dublin, Windass, Zamora...Vote for your favourite Sky Bet EFL play-off moment
By Richard Foster
Last Updated: 09/05/17 5:57pm
Agony or ecstasy? What's in store for the teams competing in the Sky Bet EFL play-offs this season?
There are few moments that provide more elation in football than being promoted at Wembley, but there's a flip side to the coin as well, with heartbreak assured over the course of the next couple of weeks.
With the Sky Bet EFL play-offs live on Sky Sports, we look back at 10 of the most memorable play-off highs and lows, and ask you to have your say. Here are the highs, followed tomorrow by the lows.
What was the best play-off moment? Have your say in the vote below...
May 2016, League One final - Barnsley 3 Millwall 1
Barnsley's improbable rise from the bottom of the division in early December to promotion at the end of May constitutes the greatest recovery of any team winning a play-off final. Such a renaissance was even more remarkable considering their manager Lee Johnson had left the club in February and was replaced by caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom.
The highlight of Heckingbottom's side's win against Millwall was Adam Hammill's 19th-minute screamer that put the Tykes 2-0 up; a goal fit to grace any stage and certainly an apt one to mark the rise from rock bottom to an unlikely but fully-merited promotion.
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May 2015, League One final - Preston North End 4 Swindon Town 0
Preston approached this final with understandable trepidation, possessing the worst record of any play-off team, having failed to gain promotion from their previous nine attempts. All those fears were soon banished as they stormed into a 3-0 lead before half-time. Then early in the second half Jermaine Beckford capped a fine individual performance when scoring the Lilywhites' fourth goal and completing his hat-trick.
This was only the third hat-trick in a Wembley play-off final after Charlton's Mendonca in 1998 and Scott Sinclair for Swansea City in 2011. After the final, Preston manager Simon Grayson spoke about how they laid the ghost of previous failures to rest: "It is common knowledge that the club has had a lot of disappointment in the play-offs. We weren't frightened of it. We told them records are there to be broken and we banished a massive hoodoo."
May 2014, Championship final - QPR 1 Derby County 0
This match attracted a record play-off crowd of 87,348 and all those present will never forget Bobby Zamora's magnificent last-minute winner. That this was 10-man QPR's first shot on target illustrated how the game had been totally dominated by Derby.
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In scoring the winning goal, Zamora became the only player to score deciding goals in Championship finals for two different clubs, following his goal for West Ham against Preston in 2005. QPR manager Harry Redknapp was honest in his assessment: "We were hanging on for grim death and then we get a goal out of nowhere. That's why this is the best game in the world."
May 2013, Championship semi-final second leg - Brighton 0 Crystal Palace 2 (Palace win 2-0 on aggregate)
After a goalless draw at Selhurst Park Brighton were firm favourites to progress to the final as they had built a formidable home record at the Amex. Without leading scorer Glenn Murray, Palace were up against it but two splendid Wilfried Zaha goals in the second half gave the Eagles the sweetest of victories over their bitter rivals.
Zaha's brace paved the way for Palace's record fourth promotion to the top flight via the play-offs as they beat Watford 1-0 in the final courtesy of a Kevin Phillips penalty after Zaha was fouled. This was Zaha's last game before his ill-fated move to Manchester United.
May 2011, Championship final - Swansea City 4 Reading 2
This sparkling victory capped Swansea's remarkable rise up the league pyramid. Only eight years before they needed a victory on the last day of the season to avoid dropping into non-league football by a solitary point. Led by former Reading manager Brendan Rodgers, Swansea were 3-0 up by half-time and seemingly coasting towards the Premier League.
However, Reading hauled themselves back into the game by scoring twice early in the second half. The coup de grace was delivered by Scott Sinclair, who wrapped up the Swans' victory with his hat-trick goal and with 10 minutes remaining he ensured Swansea became the first Welsh club to reach the Premier League.
May 2010, Championship final - Blackpool 3 Cardiff City 2
Ian Holloway's men became the first, and remain the only team, to win the play-offs across all three divisions. Their record-breaking victory over Cardiff saw Blackpool twice fall behind in a breathless first half that also included a disallowed Cardiff goal.
Goals by Charlie Adam, Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Brett Ormerod secured the win that took the Tangerines into the Premier League for the one and only time. Holloway, in typically ebullient mood, declared in his post-match comments that "I want to win the Champions League in two years." He did not quite fulfil that ambition but within three years he won the Championship play-offs again with Crystal Palace.
May 2008, Championship final - Hull City 1 Bristol City 0
Dean Windass' magnificent 20-yard volley was the only goal of the game and secured promotion to the top flight for his hometown club, Hull City, for the first time in their history. At the end of the match, The Guardian reported that "the substituted Windass charged across the Wembley turf towards the Hull support, collapsing into a sobbing bundle of tears."
Windass achieved legendary status on Humberside on the back of that goal and although he hardly featured for the Tigers again he will be forever remembered with great affection by all their fans.
May 1999, Second Division final - Manchester City 2 Gillingham 2 aet (Man City won 3-1 on penalties)
As the game was about to enter the 90th minute, City were two goals down and facing another season in the third tier of English football. But Kevin Horlock scored what seemed to be a consolation goal and then Paul Dickov struck the equaliser in the fifth minute of added time to take the game into extra-time.
The ironic twist was that Vince Bartram, the Gillingham keeper, had been best man at Dickov's wedding. City prevailed in the penalty shoot-out and the following year they were promoted to the Premier League where they have since grown into one of England's strongest clubs. Many see that Dickov goal as the pivotal moment in Man City's recent history, which laid the foundation for future Premier League titles, and in a 2005 poll it was voted City's Greatest Ever Goal.
May 1990, Fourth Division final - Cambridge United 1 Chesterfield 0
Dion Dublin's winning goal was the very first play-off goal scored at Wembley as the national stadium began hosting the finals for the first time in 1990. The ex-England international, who was joint-leading goal scorer in the Premier League in the 1997/98 season when playing for Coventry City and scored over 180 goals for the likes of Manchester United, Aston Villa and Celtic, has since described this goal as the most important of his career.
After this success Cambridge won the Third Division championship and followed this up by finishing fifth in the Second Division, their highest-ever league position, but having lost out in the 1992 semi-finals, Dublin was snapped up by Sir Alex Ferguson.
May 1987, Third Division semi-final - Sunderland 4 Gillingham 3 (6-6 on aggregate, Gillingham win on away goals)
In the very first year of the play-offs this high-scoring match set the bar pretty high for the drama that lay ahead for the next 30 years as Gillingham overcame their higher-division rivals by the slender margin of away goals.
The Gills' centre forward Tony Cascarino followed up his hat-trick in the first leg at the Priestfield Stadium with another two goals away at Roker Park to seal their win against Sunderland.
Nobody else has scored more than five goals in a semi-final since. Cascarino is unsurprisingly a strong advocate of the play-offs: "Flip it round the other way and how would you feel if we removed them? There would be an outcry; that shows how valuable they have become."