Middlesbrough have won promotion to the Premier League after a 1-1 draw against Brighton on the final day of the regular Sky Bet Championship season.
Cristhian Stuani’s early strike paved the way for Middlesbrough to win the so-called richest match in football and confirm their glorious return to the Barclays Premier League after a seven-year absence.
Needing just a draw against promotion rivals Brighton, Boro were pegged back by a second-half equaliser from Dale Stephens who was later sent off as the Seagulls pressed desperately for the goal that would take them up instead.
Talk of a £200million jackpot seems 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, Aitor 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.
Brighton, who travelled north in search of their own fairytale 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.
Winger Stewart Downing told Sky Sports:“Middlesbrough never make it easy, but it’s incredible. The chairman was one of the big reasons why I came back here and he deserves it more than anyone.”
Striker David Nugent told Sky Sports: “It’s a great feeling. We’ve been working all season for this. It’s means so much to this club.
“The chairman (Steve Gibson) deserves it because he’s worked so hard to get this club back into the Premier League. This one’s for the chairman.”
— George Caulkin (@CaulkinTheTimes) May 7, 2016
Burnley have also been crowned Championship champions after a 3-0 win at Charlton, securing promotion at the first attempt.