Harry Redknapp may have seen it all in football but even the QPR boss was stunned by their dramatic victory in the Championship play-off final.
Rangers were down to 10 men and clinging on for dear life when substitute Bobby Zamora broke Derby’s hearts with a last-minute Wembley winner.
It was Rangers’ first and only shot on target but it will be worth an estimated £120million to the west London club, who secured promotion back into the Premier League at the first attempt, and probably kept Redknapp in a job.
The 67-year-old, who has been promoted with West Ham, won the FA Cup with Portsmouth and led Tottenham into the Champions League, admitted: “It was an amazing finish.
“We were hanging on for extra time and maybe penalties, that was our only hope.
“We were down to 10 men and under the cosh, it was a real backs to the wall job, but then Bobby sticks one in the top corner.”
The writing appeared to be on the wall for Rangers when, moments after Charlie Austin fired their best chance wide, Gary O’Neil was shown a straight red card for a cynical foul on Johnny Russell.
With half an hour still to play Derby sensed their chance but found Rangers goalkeeper Robert Green in inspired form, with point-blank saves from Craig Bryson, Chris Martin and Simon Dawkins in a frantic 10-minute spell.
Then the decisive goal came. Junior Hoilett managed to wriggle past Jake Buxton a bit too easily, his cut-back was then mis-controlled by the otherwise impeccable Derby skipper Richard Keogh, and Zamora blasted in the winner.
It was the second time play-off specialist Zamora has hit the most valuable goal in football, having also fired previous club West Ham to promotion nine years ago.
Rams boss Steve McClaren, who took over from current Sheffield United boss Nigel Clough, said: Football’s a cruel game but I’m so proud of the players.
“We stayed on the field to applaud QPR, and we don’t want that hurt again. But if this team stays together it will get stronger.”