He was halted at the exit of the New York Stadium and ended up kicking down the door to the Championship.
Richard Wood powered Rotherham United back into the second tier at the first time of asking with a brace that saw off Shrewsbury Town at Wembley.
Less than six months after his Millers career looked to be over, the veteran centre half was the headline-grabbing hero in a much deserved triumph.
Set to join the EFL’s worst team, Chesterfield, in January, Wood is instead now the stuff of legend at Rotherham.
The last-minute decision to retain his services will surely go down as one of the greatest in the club’s history.
Two fantastic runs to meet two set piece deliveries brought two different goals, twice putting the Millers in front.
From a season characterised by hard work, tireless running and tremendous resolve, there could have been no finer figure to lead his side to promotion.
This final - played out in baking, energy-sapping heat at the national stadium - was billed as the meeting of League One’s two workhorses. Two sides that had confounded expectations with sheer relentlessness and superb organisation.
And while that was certainly the case, Rotherham were the better at it and deservedly booked their place in the Championship at the first attempt.
It did not come easy.
A side which had bounced back so emphatically from the most crushing of relegations a year ago again had to demonstrate plenty of resilience yet again.
They recovered from an eighth minute penalty miss when Dean Henderson batted away David Ball’s tame spot kick.
And they shook off the disappointment of being pegged back in a game they had largely controlled.
Paul Warne has build his Rotherham side from special stuff. And he has managed to put together a squad of players for whom the job means as much as it does him.
They started the brighter. Ball found space on the right of the box, as he would for much of the first half, and flashed a ball across the face of goal.
And then came the glorious chance to take the lead.
Wood ran to meet a corner but was hauled down by Omar Beckles and referee Rob Jones pointed to the spot.
Ball stepped up but put his penalty at the perfect height for Henderson, who was albeit a couple of yards off his line.
Though they could so easily have been deflated, Rotherham responded well and quickly began to pile the pressure on again. Wood flicked a header wide from a corner.
Shrewsbury struggled to impose themselves on the game in the manner in which they had done so many times during the season.
It took them almost half an hour to truly threaten with Carlton Morris dropping a header just wide of the far post from Jon Nolan’s smart cross.
Then came Wood’s first heroic act.
He left Beckles standing in the box as he surged to meet Newell’s corner and powered a header down which bounced in to send the Millers supporters behind the goal into raptures with 32 minutes gone.
Shrewsbury looked deflated and Rotherham threatened to twist the knife. Richie Towell met a clearance with a superb volley that looped just over the bar.
The second half began with a real lack of energy with the heat seemingly taking its toll.
But Shrewsbury started to push for the first time in the game.
Morris got into a superb position and drilled across goal but his team mates could not react.
And they hit the Millers with a suckerpunch as they equalised on 58 minutes with a superb free kick routine.
Shaun Whalley found Mat Sadler who clipped a first time pass forward with Alex Rodman spinning behind the defence and slotting in from close range.
Shrewsbury were buoyed but could not maintain the pressure and the game descended into a scrappy midfield affair.
The Millers had been in danger of having to rue missed chances as they finished the 90 minutes the stronger with a string of glorious opportunities.
First, substitute Caolan Lavery raced clear down the left but hesitated and, by the time he made up his mind, could only curl wide from a superb position.
Michael Smith fluffed his lines after the unlikely figure of Wood played him through and inadvertently backheeled at the keeper.
And Ryan Williams fired straight at Henderson after being put through on the right corner of the box.
Williams provided a better test in stoppage time but Henderson reacted, throwing out an arm to parry away a driving shot on the angle.
Shrewsbury were lucky to not be down to ten men early in extra time after Whalley, who had already been booked, hacked down Williams.
But Rotherham found the advantage regardless in the 103rd minute.
Newell again delivered a superb dead ball and Wood again surged away from his marker - this time Lenell John-Lewis - and slotted first time past the stranded Henderson.
With tired legs and unabating heat, the game was essentially over. Shrewsbury tried to push but could not trouble Marek Rodak.
Victory was Rotherham’s, as was the road back to the Championship.
And as the team departed to begin celebrations away from the national stadium, the last man out of the door, clutching the play-off winners’ trophy?