Crystal Palace 1-0 Watford (AET)
Ian Holloway and his army of Welsh players will be joining Cardiff City and Swansea City in the Premier League next season after winning the Championship play-off final in extra time.
Veteran striker Kevin Phillips was the Wembley hero for the Eagles, who featured Jonathan Williams and Danny Gabbidon in their starting 11 while fellow Welshmen Lewis Price, Ashley Richards and Darcy Blake watched on.
After ending the 90 minutes 0-0 a cool Phillips 105th minute penalty, scored after Marco Cassetti felled Wilfred Zaha, was enough to see off Gianfranco Zola’s Hornets.
Holloway, who has been in the dugout in three of the last four Championship play-off finals, led his team to an impressive upset as he did three years ago when his Blackpool team overcame Dave Jones’ Bluebirds.
Today they dominated a talented Watford team that finished five points above them in the Championship table
Commentating for BBC Radio Five at Wembley was Wales international Robbie Savage, who said: “There were times this season that Crystal Palace’s form was so poor you wondered if they would make it to the play-offs.
“Today though, they have been very good. Watford, in an attacking sense, have been very poor.
“It was a fantastic end. Watford showed some desire in the final five minutes.
“On the day, Crystal Palace thoroughly deserved to win. I am delighted for Ian Holloway.”
The day was extra special for Palace chairman Steve Parish and his co-owners, who saved the club from going bust three years ago and can now look forward to a windfall in the region of £120million.
Those high stakes seemed to overwhelm Watford, whose key performers this season simply did not show up at Wembley.
The Championship’s player of the year Matej Vydra, one of the 10 players Watford borrowed from sister clubs in Italy and Spain, endured a miserable first half and limped off at half-time.
Instead it was Zaha who caught the eye throughout, and he lured Cassetti into the clumsy lunge which ultimately settled the match in the 104th minute.
The 20-year-old, Sir Alex Ferguson’s final signing for United, created Palace’s only chance of the first half with a scintillating run down the right, leaving Nathaniel Chalobah and Cassetti chasing shadows before pulling the ball back to Owen Garvan, whose shot was blocked.
Watford, the top scorers in the Championship this season, were strangely subdued and caused few alarms in the Palace penalty area.
Troy Deeney crossed to no one when he should have shot, before Vydra was denied by a superb last-ditch tackle from Damien Delaney on the edge of the area.
Chelsea loanee Chalobah, with his prospective new boss Jose Mourinho in the stands, fizzed a low cross into the box but no one could get a touch.
Injuries did not help the flow of the game either – Palace midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi succumbed to a calf problem early on and Vydra spent most of the first half limping around forlornly before failing to emerge for the second.
It took almost an hour for the first shot on target to be registered, and Alex Geijo’s grasscutter did not pose Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni any problems.
Palace did create a clear opening moments later but unfortunately it fell to Aaron Wilbraham, the player filling the void left by injured top scorer Glenn Murray and with one goal to his name all season.
The striker did not look confident as he bore down on goal and, having opted to turn back inside rather than shoot early, the opportunity disappeared.
But the game was at last opening up, and Zaha went on another mazy run before playing in Stuart O’Keefe, whose shot was saved by Manuel Almunia.
The corner fell to Wilbraham, with Almunia blocking again, before former Cardiff City star Gabbidon’s poor touch in front of a gaping goal from another corner left the defender with his head in his hands.
Almunia, having spent the first half as a virtual spectator, was now keeping his side in the match with fine saves from Garvan, Wilbraham and Mile Jedinak.
In extra-time it was Speroni who was forced into action to claw the ball from underneath Deeney as he chased Almen Abdi’s cross.
But the breakthrough came when Cassetti, by now dizzy having been twisted and turned by Zaha yet again, brought the winger down in the area.
Referee Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot and Phillips crashed the penalty high into the net.
The drama did not end there with Joel Ward clearing Fernando Forestieri’s shot off the line in stoppage time.
But it was Zaha, Phillips and Holloway who were celebrating moments later as the Eagles secured their return to the top flight after an eight-year absence.
Crystal Palace were promoted to the Barclays Premier League today after beating Watford 1-0 in the npower Championship play-off final at Wembley and are now on course to bank an estimated £120million.
Using figures calculated by professional service firm Deloitte, here we look at how that cash prize breaks down.
:: £60million – estimated increase in revenue for the 2013-14 season, including £55million of TV broadcast income.
:: £60million – even if Palace’s stay in the Premier League lasts for just one season, they will qualify for £60million in parachute payments over the following four seasons.
:: Deloitte report that the value in promotion to the top flight has increased three-fold over the last decade.
As the 2012/13 season reaches its conclusion, we take a look at the football league ups and downs – just one more time!
Relegated: QPR, Reading, Wigan.
Champions: Cardiff City
Promoted: Hull, Crystal Palace.
Relegated: Bristol City, Wolves, Peterborough.
NPOWER LEAGUE ONE
Promoted: Bournemouth, Yeovil.
Relegated: Scunthorpe, Bury, Hartlepool, Portsmouth.
NPOWER LEAGUE TWO
Promoted: Rotherham, Port Vale, Bradford.
Relegated: Barnet, Aldershot.
BLUE SQUARE BET PREMIER
Promoted: Newport County.
Relegated: Telford, Ebbsfleet, Barrow, Stockport.