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Middlesbrough vs Brighton and Hove Albion. Sky Bet Championship.

Riverside StadiumAttendance33,806.

Middlesbrough 1

  • C Stuani (19th minute)

Brighton and Hove Albion 1

  • D Stephens (55th minute, sent off 59th minute)

Middlesbrough 1-1 Brighton: Boro secure return to Premier League

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Highlights of the '£170m' Sky Bet Championship clash between Middlesbrough and Brighton

Cristhian Stuani's early strike paved the way for Middlesbrough to win the so-called richest match in football and confirm their return to the Premier League after a seven-year absence.

Needing just a draw against promotion rivals Brighton by virtue of their better goal difference, Boro were pegged back by a second-half equaliser from Dale Stephens, who was later sent off.

But despite eight minutes of stoppage time, the second goal the Seagulls pressed desperately for never came, Aitor Karanka's side exorcising the memory of last season's play-off final defeat to seal their place back in the big time.

Cristhian Stuani of Middlesbrough celebrates
Image: Cristhian Stuani of Middlesbrough celebrates the opening goal

Talk of a £170m jackpot might seem obscene in a region recently blighted by steel redundancies, and the celebrations at the final whistle intimated Boro's joyous supporters are more interested in a prize that money could not buy.

Seven years after sinking out of the top flight on the final day of the season, Karanka's impressive, if occasionally tumultuous revolution, was complete, and some of the biggest clubs in the world will be back at the Riverside Stadium next season.

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There were scenes of joy in Middlesbrough as they secured promotion

Brighton, who travelled north in search of their own fairy tale, 19 years after Robbie Reinelt's goal at Hereford prevented them dropping out of the Football League, must now prepare themselves to seek promotion through the play-offs - Sheffield Wednesday their opponents.

Chris Hughton's Seagulls, who had soared back into automatic promotion contention on the back of a 13-match unbeaten run, knew only a win would be good enough to join Burnley back in the top fight for the first time since 1983.

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Karanka, inspired by the belief that his side had learned from last season's play-off final defeat, responded boldly by bringing Stuani back into his line-up and leaving local boy Stewart Downing and striker Jordan Rhodes on the bench.

In an opening period in which neither side betrayed signs of nerves, Sam Baldock saw a first-minute chance deflected out for a corner for the visitors, while Albert Adomah just failed to reach a Stuani cross in front of goal.

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Middlesbrough's David Nugent and Stewart Downing dedicated the club's return to the Premier League to the chairman Steve Gibson

Brighton had marginally the better of the early exchanges, Stephens seeing a long-range effort tipped over, and Boro keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos plucking an Anthony Knockaert cross off the head of Connor Goldson.

Karanka's selection was spectacularly vindicated in the 19th minute when Boro grabbed their opener, David Nugent flicking on a free-kick and Stuani stretching to poke past David Stockdale in the six-yard box.

Christian Stuani opens the scoring for Middlesbrough in the promotion showdown at the Riverside
Image: Stuani opens the scoring for Middlesbrough in the promotion showdown at the Riverside

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Ben Gibson and Adam Clayton react to Middlesbrough's promotion

Goldson deflected a second Stuani effort over the bar and Ramirez floated an attempted lob onto the roof of the net as Boro pushed to effectively finish the job and rubber-stamp their top-flight return.

Boro ended their first half guilty of squandering a number of good opportunities to score a second, and they were punished nine minutes into the second half when Stephens headed home a Knockaert free-kick at the far post.

Dale Stephens of Brighton celebrates after scoring against Middlesbrough
Image: Dale Stephens of Brighton celebrates after scoring against Middlesbrough

But the balance of the game swung dramatically just three minutes later, when goalscorer Stephens was sent off for a foul on Ramirez which left the Uruguayan to be carried off with what looked like a serious injury.

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Aitor Karanka said he couldn't be more proud of his Middlesbrough players

Adomah could have settled the hosts' mounting nerves when he swung at a loose ball in the Brighton box with three minutes to go, forcing a brilliant point-blank reaction save out of Stockdale.

But the home side remained relatively calm through the rising tumult of eight minutes of injury time, a last, sure catch from Konstantopoulos finally signalling the inevitable, wild pitch invasion from home fans, their journey complete.

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