Charlton 2 (Purrington 35, Bauer 90+4) Sunderland 1 (Sarr 5,o.g.).
Kevin Nolan reports from Wembley Stadium.
Considerable slack should be cut when reading this admittedly sketchy account of Charlton's heart attack-inducing victory over arch enemies Sunderland, a town it might be prudent to swerve for the time being. Much of what occurred passed in a daze for your reporter, recumbent as he was for much of the time on the floor of Wembley's press box. But we do our best so here goes.
Let's start at the end where, in the last seconds of four added minutes, the latest in a series of free kicks conceded by the increasingly physical Mackems was quickly taken on the left, with the ball switched short to Josh Cullen. Moving on to his right foot, the indefatigable midfield maestro crossed to the far post, where Patrick Bauer's header bounced back to him off Tom Flanagan and was prodded over the line, again off the helpful Flanagan, by Charlton's big friendly German. Celebrations were mighty, even in the supposedly neutral surroundings of the media centre but we pulled ourselves together promptly. There were, after all, six tricky seconds to negotiate before promotion to the Championship became official. Whereupon, frankly, all bets were off. Everyone went unapologetically garrity.
Now we'll go back to the beginning. The euphoric mood much later was a stark contrast to the disbelief and despair Charlton fans felt when the Wearsiders were given a goal start after just five minutes of this winner-takes-all clash. For once, that over-used word "surreal" can be justified in describing the debacle which, in an almost dream-like sequence, persuaded Naby Sarr to routinely return Dillon Phillips' roll-out to the keeper. Perhaps a confirmatory glance might have spared the Addicks grief but Phillips seemed the guiltier party in taking his eye off the ball and allowing it to trickle almost furtively into his net. "Something we couldn't control" was Lee Bowyer's charitable post-game comment. If Charlton had lost, his reaction might have been saltier.
To his credit, Phillips held his nerve and contributed an important save from Grant Leadbitter as Sunderland sensed an opportunity to put the tie on a safer footing.
Inspired by the calm authority of Cullen and the streetwise experience of Darren Pratley, order was gradually restored with the former passing it about and the latter putting it about, so to speak. The ugly spectre of that disastrous own goal continued to haunt them, though, until an unlikely scorer purged it with a 35th minute equaliser.
Since replacing long-term injury absentee Lewis Page, left back Ben Purrington has operated under the radar, unsung and taken for granted as a solid, unfussy defender. Without a senior goal to his credit, Purington updated that statistic by arriving at the far post, with Pratley at his elbow, to tap in Lyle Taylor's hard low centre across the six-yard box. Coolly impressive Anfernee Dijksteel and Premier League target Joe Aribo had distinguished themselves in the approach play which set up Taylor's assist. And while his goal didn't quite match the quality of Clive Mendonca's magical strikes in 1998, Purrington's name, like those of Chris Duffy and Clive Mendonca, will resonate down the years as scorer of one of the defining goals in the club's Wembley story. He was joined later by another improbable scorer.
Having drawn level, the next imperative for the resurgent Addicks was to come up with a winner to spare us extra-time and, perish the thought, penalties. To that end, old pro Jason Pearce was a sensible interval replacement for Sarr, recipient of a first half yellow card and an obvious target for Sunderland's wind-up merchants.
Stalwart Pearce shored up the defence but it was the 71st minute introduction of Jonny Williams for braveheart Pratley which decisively shifted the momentum in Charlton's favour. A known quantity as far as the Mackems are concerned, their plan to curtail his free-roaming incursions was simplicity itself. Having clearly placed a bounty on his head, they took turns to bash him up, accepting cautions as a fair price to pay to curb his enthusiasm. Brave as a bible, he invited their mistreatment and was fittingly involved in the last gasp free kick which turned the tables on his tormentors. In the process of relishing their ultimate discomfort, the Nolans dangled precariously from the press box like Statler and Waldorf. We couldn't have complained if we'd been aimed out of the stadium. But who cares anyway? We'll always have Wembley May '19 to remember, a magical day when the good guys won through, one which confirmed for us that it's a privilege to support Charlton. See you in the Championship. You're all welcome.
Charlton: Phillips, Dijksteel, Bauer, Sarr (Pearce 46), Purrington, Bielik, Pratley (Williams 71), Cullen, Aribo, Parker, Taylor. Not used: Maxwell, Forster-Caskey, Reeves, Solly, Lapslie. Booked: Sarr.
Sunderland: McLaughlin, O'Nien. Ozturk, Flanagan, Oviedo, Cattermole, Leadbitter, Power (Morgan 9), Honeyman, Wyke (McGeady 72), Maguire (Grigg 57). Not used: Stryjek, Matthews, Gooch, Dunne. Booked: O'Nien, Flanagan, Leadbitter, Grigg.
Referee: Andy Madley. Att: 76,155.
This one is for Betty Hutchins. No explanation is necessary.