Middlesbrough's biggest crowd since relegation from the Premier League in 2009 witnessed a team sporting the credentials to make a return. Not since the visit of Manchester United in May that year had the Riverside housed such an attendance and those who bought into the club's half-price Fantastic Friday scheme were richly rewarded.
Victory in an eighth consecutive unbeaten fixture propelled Middlesbrough above Crystal Palace and into top spot in the Championship, the first time they have held such a lofty position for 14 months. In the tightest of divisions spells of sustained consistency could prove decisive in the promotion equation.
Despite this being Middlesbrough's best start to a league season for 18 years, the turnout of 28,229 was an astonishing 12,000 up on their previous best this season and vindication for slashing ticket prices to £12 for adults and £7 for concessions. It appeared to be definitive proof that it is spare cash rather than the appetite for football that has reduced in this part of north-east England.
The initiative ensured the Riverside reverberated as it did for European nights in the not-so-distant past. "It was great to have such a big crowd there for us, so a big thank you to those supporters that came tonight," said Middlesbrough's manager, Tony Mowbray. "That's what I knew the Riverside to be like during 11 seasons in the Premier League, so hopefully those people will have gone home happy to have seen a team that's gone top of the league.
"It's a 35,000-seater stadium and, when you have got only 14-15,000, it's woefully empty. It is difficult for the players when there is no atmosphere."
There was something to cheer after a dozen minutes when Mowbray's team took the lead through an unlikely source. The full-back Justin Hoyte belied the fact that his only other goal for the club came three years ago with a delicious, outside-of-the-boot finish into the top corner after Emmanuel Ledesma's silky assist provided the chance to strike on the run.
Boro's failings last season revolved round their lack of productivity in front of goal but Hoyte is their 17th different scorer in 2012-13 and the midfielder Grant Leadbitter appeared intent on becoming the 18th against a Sheffield Wednesday team still acclimatising to the rarefied Championship air. Twice Leadbitter had Chris Kirkland, the Wednesday goalkeeper, scurrying across his line: a second-minute corner pushed over from under the angle and a whipped free-kick repelled by the fists. However, the pièce de résistance of Boro's first-half attacking play came shortly after the half-hour when the on-loan Chelsea midfielder Josh McEachran eased past a posse of defenders like a slalom skier between gates before being foiled by Kirkland.
Only for 20 minutes either side of the break did Boro lose their way. First, Hoyte was exposed by Michail Antonio's pace, only for the winger to be penalised for an alleged tug of the shirt. Then, after Antonio extended Jason Steele with a curling effort from outside the area, Boro failed to deal with the resultant corner and were thankful that the centre-back Miguel Llera got in a tangle at the far post.
With the former England defender Jonathan Woodgate unable to resume after the interval after yet another niggle (this one a tweaked calf), Seb Hines was paired with André Bikey after the break and the new-look backline was punished for hesitancy four minutes later as Jay Bothroyd swung in a cross from the right, Antonio chested down and Gary Madine volleyed in – from an off-side position.
Surprisingly there were few protests and any lingering sense of injustice was dispelled on the hour courtesy of Llera's error. Wednesday are learning of the grave consequences for overelaborating and, when Scott McDonald was given the ball, his shot bobbled goalwards, to be walked over the line by his strike partner Ishmael Miller.
Wednesday's ninth defeat in 13 games was rubber stamped a quarter of an hour later when the substitute Lukas Jutkiewicz ghosted in at the near post to meet another Leadbitter corner with a powerful header and cap a memorable night on Teesside.
"We wrestled the game back, got in charge of it and then committed football suicide," said Wednesday's manager, Dave Jones. "Why we are playing the ball around there, I will never know."