Captain Patrick Bauer’s scrambled last-gasp strike sealed Charlton’s Sky Bet Championship promotion in a dramatic 2-1 League One play-off final victory over Sunderland at Wembley.
The centre back prodded home after Sunderland goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin had parried his initial header to send the Addicks into raptures and English football’s second tier for the first time in three years.
Charlton fully deserved their victory but pulled it off in almost the hardest possible way after leaking a calamitous own goal from Naby Sarr in the fifth minute.
Ben Purrington levelled before half-time thanks to Lyle Taylor’s smart assist, and just when the clash looked headed for extra time, up popped Bauer with the winner.
It was the cruellest of ways for Sunderland to be consigned to a second year in England’s third tier, but in truth, the Wearsiders could hardly argue with the result.
Charlton set aside all their wacky protests against their ownership as 36,000 Addicks fans swamped Wembley, and those in the national stadium revelled as home town boy and boss Lee Bowyer steered The Valley men back to the Championship.
Disaster struck Charlton soon after kick-off, though, as a blameless Sarr watched on in horror as Dillon Phillips allowed his pressure-free back pass to roll past his foot and into the net.
Phillips sprinted back in desperation, sliding on his knees into the net himself – but not before the ball.
Such shocks can often cause a total collapse but though clearly flummoxed initially, Charlton eventually rallied.
When Purrington tapped in Taylor’s incisive far-post cross in the 35th minute, the Addicks were deservedly back on terms.
The leveller afforded cleansing mercy for both Phillips and Sarr, with the early howler not proving decisive.
Charlton continued to press most after the break but the match moved past the hour with the scores still locked at 1-1.
Jonny Williams’ arrival added yet more impetus to the Addicks, with the former Sunderland midfielder clearly fired up against his old club.
Taylor nodded wide at the far post as the game opened up, then Krystian Bielik saw a dangerous header cleared in a six-yard box scramble.
Josh Parker’s cute flick was later blocked by Tom Flanagan as Charlton pressed at the death, with the spectre of extra time evaporated when Bauer stubbed home the winner in the fourth minute of added time.
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