Brighton 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday (aggregate score: 1-3)
Wembley here we come!
After a 16-year absence, Sheffield Wednesday are one match away from returning to the Premier League.
The Class of 2016 have the opportunity to write their names in Owls folklore in the showpiece Championship Play-Off Final on Saturday, May 28 where they will meet either Hull City or Derby County.
The Tigers are firmly in the driving seat after winning the away leg 3-0.
There were joyous celebrations at the final whistle as the Owls’ coaching staff and players celebrated with the 2,041 travelling fans who made the trip south following their battling draw at Brighton and Hove Albion.
In an absorbing, breathless contest, the Seagulls gave Wednesday a real fright in the second leg, especially in the first period. You could see exactly why 15 points separated the two clubs in the regular season.
But Wednesday refused to buckle, underlining all their resilience, grit and determination which has characterised their season.
Chris Hughton, Carvalhal’s opposite number, called on the Seagulls fans to pump up the volume.
His rallying cry did not fall on deaf ears.
Roared on by a vociferous crowd at the Amex Stadium, the Seagulls went for the jugular from the off.
It took a smart stop from Keiren Westwood to deny Steve Sidwell, who recovered from the knock he sustained last week, to prevent the hosts from taking an early lead, with James Wilson seeing his effort blocked on the follow up.
Anthony Knockaert was the driving force behind Brighton’s early dominance.
The French winger’s curling free kick struck Westwood’s left-hand upright after he had been upended by Owls skipper Glenn Loovens just outside the penalty area.
Moments later, Tom Lees joined Loovens in the book after tripping Beram Kayal. Knockaert’s low set piece went under the wall but Westwood dived to his left to keep it out. It was an absolute onslaught.
Wednesday, who fielded an unchanged starting line-up, struggled to match Brighton’s high tempo.
They just couldn’t get out of their own half and the lively Knockaert’s effort was deflected narrowly wide before Westwood acrobatically foiled Sam Baldock.
Knockaert some how nodded wide from close range as the Seagulls continued to dominate.
Brighton’s relentless pressure paid off in the 19th minute when Lewis Dunk, available for selection again after completing a two-match suspension, turned in Knockaert’s free-kick. It was no more than Hughton’s side deserved.
Where possible, Wednesday tried to slow things down and take the sting out of the contest.
And against the run of play, Ross Wallace restored the Owls’ two-goal cushion.
The Scot whipped in a dangerous cross from the right hand side and it sailed in, evading everyone in the centre.
Wallace’s second goal in as many outings gave Wednesday some much-needed breathing space and briefly knocked Brighton out of their stride.
But Westwood came to the Owls’ rescue again just after the half hour mark, producing a vital stop to thwart James Wilson in a one-on-one situation.
It was one-way traffic, with Jiri Skalak drilling a long range free-kick inches over the top.
There would have been far too much last ditch defending for Carvalhal’s liking and Kieran Lee hacked the ball clear from near the goal line on the stroke of half-time following a scramble in the box from Skalak’s corner.
But in a rare foray forward, Wednesday almost caught them out on the counter attack. Fernando Forestieri and Gary Hooper combined superbly as Forestieri floated in a lovely centre which Hooper met with a meaty header only to be denied by the agility of Stockdale.
It was a fantastic stop after the Owls’ best move of a one-sided half.
Brighton, following a nightmare Friday the 13th, stayed on the front foot after the break and Westwood had to be alert to deny Skalak and Wilson.
It was no surprise Carvalhal freshened up his midfield, bringing on Sam Hutchinson to add extra steel and grit.
The tactical switch helped Wednesday derail some of the Seagulls momentum and Stockdale spilled Bannan’s fierce shot from 25 yards out.
With so much at stake, things got a little bit heated and referee Roger East brandished a flurry of yellow cards.
Wednesday came close to grabbing a second in the 76th minute, but substitute Atdhe Nuhiu headed Lee’s teasing cross over when he should have done better.
In less than a fortnight’s time at the national stadium, Carvalhal’s men will compete in the end-of-season showdown which is widely regarded as football’s richest match.
There’s a lucrative place in the top-flight up for grabs and a minimum of £170m riding on the result.
The new television deal, which kicks in next season, is thought to be worth a minimum of £90m to the team who finishes bottom of the table.
One thing is for sure, the Owls have more than earned their shot at the big time.
Brighton: Stockdale; Bruno, Greer (Rosenior 76), Dunk, Bong; Knockaert, Sidwell, Kayal, Skalak; Baldock (LuaLua 61), Wilson. Substitutes: Maenpaa, Calderon, Crofts, Towell, Murphy.
Wednesday: Westwood; Hunt, Lees, Loovens, Pudil; Wallace (Helan 66), Lee, Lopez (Hutchinson HT), Bannan; Forestieri, Hooper (Nuhiu 70). Substitutes: Wildsmith, Sasso, Matias, Joao.
Attendance: 27,272 Referee: Roger East