The story of the Championship final day: Nottingham Forest's collapse, Barnsley produce a miracle
Swansea leapfrog Forest into the playoffs; Barnsley boss Gerhard Struber in tears at last-minute winner; Leeds crowned champions
Last Updated: 24/07/20 6:06am
There were more twists and turns than a murder mystery, 42 goals, champagne and tears - it’s safe to say the final day of the Sky Bet Championship season delivered.
Here's a round-up of a quite breathtaking two hours of sporting drama....
- When are the 2020 Championship playoffs?
- Leeds lift the Sky Bet Championship trophy
- Cardiff book play-off place; Hull relegated
- How Leeds bounced back to reach the Premier League
- Championship table
How Forest crumbled...
The pre-match permutation: After Forest had conceded a last-minute winner to Barnsley at the weekend, Swansea needed a win away at Reading, a Forest defeat and five-goal swing in goal difference to go above Forest to finish sixth.
It looked an impossible task with Forest available at 1/66 with Sky Bet to secure their top-six status. All they needed was a point or just to keep the score respectable in a defeat. They did neither.
What transpired: Despite Sabri Lamouchi's team going into the final round of fixtures firmly in the driving seat, they fell behind to a Danny Batth goal that put Stoke in front after 19 minutes. Forest then equalised through Tobias Figueiredo just after an hour.
Meanwhile, at the Madjeski Stadium, Swansea looked down and out with the scores locked at 1-1 going into the second half after George Puscas had cancelled out Rhian Brewster's wonder goal.
Forest couldn't blow it from here - could they?
The Swans, playing with an attacking intensity that merited a slice of luck, took the lead through Wayne Routlege on 66 minutes. But Forest were still level with 17 minutes to play, so only an unthinkable collapse could stop them now. A four-goal swing was still needed.
Nerves starting to jangle when Stoke went back in front after 73 minutes. James McClean was judged to be onside when he tapped home the ball at the far post. Five minutes later, it was 3-1 when Lee Gregory scored for Stoke.
At around the same time, Swansea pulled within touching distance of sixth spot after substitute Liam Cullen scored his side's third. Forest's play-off hopes were now on a knife edge.
Another goal for the Swans or a fourth for Stoke would see the Reds miss out. At the Madejski, Swansea answered the call and sensationally, Routledge guaranteed the unthinkable to overcome the five-goal swing in stoppage time.
The news of the goal clearly reached the Forest bench. Forest had to score but as they pushed for the goal they were caught on the break and Nuno Da Costa turned the ball into his own net to seal their fate.
Staggeringly, Forest hadn't been outside the top-six since Boxing Day - a spectacular demise.
Swansea will now host Brentford in the first leg of the Championship playoffs this Sunday while Cardiff play Fulham in the other semi-final.
Forest manager reaction, Sabri Lamouchi: "I don't have any words. I can't explain what's happened tonight or what's happened for the last five games - how it is possible to not secure the play-offs before, with just one point.
"I can't explain what's happened tonight - when you come back in the game and then 20 minutes before the end we lost control.
"I don't have words in my mind now. I just have disaster. Unacceptable.
"I am so sorry for the Forest community - the fans and all people who have followed us all season."
Swansea manager reaction, Steve Cooper: "It's a small pat on the back and 'well done' but there's a bigger prize to go for. I'm sorry if that sounds diplomatic. We're so happy and I'm probably coming across a bit boring, but we can't take our eye off the ball.
"We've got two, possibly three, matches to go. The Championship is relentless. We're in a good place, we'll stick to how we work, and we'll be ready."
Analysis: "Capitulation doesn't quite sum it up, it was a disaster"
Former Nottingham Forest midfielder and Sky Sports presenter David Prutton on the Sky Sports EFL Podcast...
"It was stuttering and staggering towards the end of the season and to go into the last game knowing a point is needed, you just have to make sure and hold your nerve. Capitulation doesn't quite sum it up, it was a disaster.
"It is chastening for them. What Sabri Lamouchi has done with that side is turn them into a team greater than the summer of their parts and it has been good, but describing it as anything more than good would be churlish as they should be in the top six. It will be an agonising few days for them."
The Barnsley miracle...
The pre-match permutation: Barnsley knew they were relegated if they failed to beat the automatic-promotion chasers Brentford - a draw wasn't enough. They also needed results elsewhere to go their way. It looked a tall order with Sky Bet pricing them at 7/1 to stay up. Meanwhile, Brentford could attain automatic promotion if they beat Barnsley and West Brom failed to win at home to QPR.
What transpired: Ryan Manning's shock goal for QPR against West Brom gave Brentford hope but they were facing an rejuvenated Barnsley side, who defended brilliantly and attacked with great tempo. They were ahead just before the break when Callum Styles struck a vital opener.
West Brom turned things around to spring into a 2-1 lead and put one foot in the Premier League but a Eberechi Eze equaliser for QPR restored hope for Brentford, who were still losing to the relentless Tykes.
However, on 72 minutes Brentford drew level through Josh Dasilva, putting Barnsley back into the relegation zone and lifting Brentford to within one goal of the Premier League.
With West Brom drawing, another goal would have put Brentford in the box seat again, but there were heads in hands when Ollie Watkins missed at the far post, and moments later Clarke Oduor arrived three yards out to tap in Barnsley's winner. Cue wild celebrations. They had survived. Somehow.
A remarkable achievement considering they were 10 points from safety after a home loss to Birmingham in February and just 30 seconds away from relegation until their last-minute winner against Forest at the weekend. This win also took them out of the drop zone for the first time since September.
Timing is everything in sport.
Barnsley boss Gerhard Struber could hardly hold back the tears in his post-match interview: "In my football life, it's the biggest job I've done, I'm so proud of my boys.
"We never gave up in every game and in every moment and I think everyone understands now that what's been said in the last few weeks hasn't just been words."
Barnsley's escape at Brentford meant Hull City and Charlton Athletic, who lost at Leeds, were joined in the bottom three by Wigan. That's barring a successful appeal against their 12-point deduction for entering administration. None of the teams in the bottom five with five games to go ended up being relegated, including Luton, who won their final two games to make a great escape under returning boss Nathan Jones.
West Brom reach promise land...
So, Brentford's inability to beat Barnsley meant West Brom sealed their return to the Premier League after a 2-2 draw with QPR. The Baggies crawled across the line to seal second spot but it mattered little to those involved with Slaven Bilic masterminding a return to the top level in his first season in charge.
Had the Bees won, Albion would have dropped into the play-offs but Bilic's side survived an agonising final few minutes to celebrate promotion.
Leeds celebrate title win...
Leeds ended their 16-year wait to return to the Premier League on Friday night after Huddersfield beat West Brom, meaning the Yorkshire club secured promotion without kicking a ball.
They secured top spot on Saturday after Brentford lost 1-0 to Stoke and were presented with the trophy on Wednesday evening after comprehensively beating Charlton.
Swansea City vs Brentford - Sunday July 26, 6.30pm
Cardiff City vs Fulham - Monday July 27, 7.45pm
Brentford vs Swansea City - Wednesday July 29, 7.45pm
Fulham vs Cardiff City - Thursday July 30, 7.45pm