Once the smoke and the fans had cleared from the pitch, and Sheffield Wednesday left League One to the sound of Hey Jude, the fact sunk in that one of the cruellest and most bizarre gambles of the season had paid off spectacularly.

In February, after victory in the Sheffield derby, Milan Mandaric fired his manager, Gary Megson, a former Wednesday player and the son of a Wednesday player. You felt for him now. He might have led the club he loved to promotion, but it is doubtful he would have done so in the same style as his successor, Dave Jones.

"My remit was promotion and when I arrived here I thought it would be through the play-offs," said Jones. "I am pleased for the chairman. He made a big, big call and I have repaid him. I have had a lot of good times in football and I make sure I enjoy them because the bad times hit you hard."

Their run had been timed perfectly. Until last Saturday they had been behind Sheffield United, whose failure to beat Stevenage at Bramall Lane ultimately proved decisive. There was never any doubt that against a Wycombe side that had already been relegated, Wednesday would win this bare-knuckle contest between the two sides of Steel City.

The lap of honour, which had to be abandoned because of persistent pitch invasions, was the only part of the afternoon that did not run to plan. Only the Spion Kop, that part of Hillsborough where love for the club runs deepest, obeyed the constant instructions to clear the pitch. They turned on the rest of the ground with a chant of "where were you when we were shit?"

It is worth remembering that this vast institution have been not very good for quite a while. They had gone down to the third tier of English football in 2003 – the year an ambitious little club called Wigan Athletic were emerging from it – and then, having climbed back up to the Championship in 2005, went down again in 2010.

Sheffield is the furthest city in England from the coast, but there were enough beach balls being tossed around the Spion Kop to have supplied several coach trips to Scarborough. There were even a couple of paddling pools.

There had been reports of tickets changing hands for £1,000, while the PA was playing the Beastie Boys' Fight for Your Right to Party. Nobody was fighting too hard. Their fate was in their own hands, they were facing a relegated side and they were at home. Sheffield Wednesday were going up. They knew it. By the time the match was 28 minutes old they were certain of it.

Michail Antonio went through on goal, steadied himself and shot home. Jones had suggested before kick-off that the atmosphere at Hillsborough might unnerve Wycombe. "I hope they blow the roof off, I hope they are ferocious," he said. When the ball struck the net, the stands shook. For the 22-year-old striker, his loan move from Reading has been eventful. His debut came in the victory over Sheffield United that served as Mandaric's bizarre cue to sack Megson. He scored the winner against Carlisle in the fifth minute of stoppage-time and now he had scored a critical goal in Wednesday's history.

When the electronic scoreboards relayed the fact that, at Exeter, Sheffield United had fallen behind, there was an explosion. It then flashed up a message: "Will you marry me, Jayne?" It is hard to imagine she refused.

When the news came through from St James Park that United had turned the game around, it provided just the barest whiff of anxiety as Wycombe demonstrated why they had already been relegated to League Two.

There was no attempt to challenge Chris Lines's free-kick and Nile Ranger, on loan from Newcastle, headed effortlessly home. In the first half, Ranger, viewed as a rogue presence in the north-east, had what appeared to be a perfectly good header disallowed for offside. This one was beyond dispute.

Ranger had not wanted to come to Hillsborough because he did not want to play League One football. Now – if he stays – he will no longer have to.