Even during his years working in television, Greg Dyke hardly saw drama like this. In the space of an incredible few seconds at the end of suspense-filled contest, the Brentford chairman, who will soon leave his post to become the new head of the FA, watched his club swing from delirium to despair as Doncaster relished the reverse.
Brentford seemed set to leapfrog their opponents into League One's second automatic promotion place but the substitute Marcello Trotta crashed a last-minute penalty against the crossbar and Doncaster hurtled straight down the other end for Jamie Coppinger to score with the last kick of the game. Suddenly, from looking certain to be shunted into the play-offs, Doncaster were champions, their last-gasp victory enabling them to overtake Bournemouth, who were held to a draw at Tranmere.
As Doncaster fans danced maniacally and lit flares in celebration, the majority of the 12,300 crowd – Brentford's highest in 20 years – stared in disbelief. Their players collapsed to the turf and Trotta no doubt wished he had let someone else take the kick – several team-mates had pleaded with him to leave it to someone else after Toumani Diagouraga was fouled in the dying seconds to give Brentford the opportunity to reach the second tier of English football for just the second time since World War II, but Trotta, on loan from Fulham, refused to relinquish the ball.
"When I saw what was happening I was not so sure we were going to score," admitted their manager, Uwe Rösler, whose anger turned to agony when the rebound found its way to the Doncaster substitute Billy Paynter, who ran all the way into the Brentford box before rolling the ball across for Coppinger to tap into the net in front of 1,000 travelling fans.
As the Doncaster manager, Bryan Flynn, rejoiced with the players who he took charge of in January after Dean Saunders left for a supposed step upwards to Wolves, Rosler sought to deflect flak from Trotta. "We are not a club that hangs people out," he said, struggling manfully to conceal his fury. "He [Trotta] was not the first-choice penalty-taker. It is very important for me that we be responsible as a group of players ... we have to keep a cool head and follow the instructions. We'll deal with it internally. That is all I am going to say about it."
Until the explosive conclusion this eagerly anticipated clash was something of a damp squib. Brentford had the best home record in the league and Doncaster the best away one but the magnitude of the occasion seemed to inhibit them both. The scrappiness of proceedings suited Doncaster, who only needed a draw to secure promotion. Brentford, considered one of the best passing sides in the division, could not find any fluency and their attacks seldom looked like infiltrating the well-drilled visiting defence. Surprisingly, their one clear chance in the first half came from a punt upfield by keeper Simon Moore and a flick-on from Clayton Donaldson. Bradley Wright-Phillips latched on to it and guided his shot past Neil Sullivan but against the post.
Doncaster threatened on the counterattack, David Cotterill coming closest with an 18-yard drive that flew just wide. Such counterattacks became rare in the second half as Brentford forced the visitors on to the back foot without ever looking likely to penetrate. Their best chance fell to Jonathan Douglas 16 yards out but, symptomatic of Brentford's nervousness, the midfielder ballooned his shot over the bar.
The match seemed to be petering out for a 0-0, which would have sent Doncaster up in second. "I would have been happy with that, to be honest," said Flynn, whose day was about to get a lot better. The Welshman had not been following the Bournemouth score and did not initially know that Coppinger's strike sealed the title. Now he wants to know whether he will be in charge of this team in the Championship – his contract expires on Monday. "I definitely want the job," he said. He will do well to experience another day like this.