After 45 matches, nine months of highs and lows, a three-point Football League deduction and four words of pure folly from an opposition striker, it all came down to two goals and one simple truth.
Rotherham United will still be a Championship club next season.
They sealed their safety on another incredible night under the lights at AESSEAL New York Stadium with strikes early in the second half from Matt Derbyshire and Lee Frecklington.
It was bonkers at AESSEAL New York Stadium, just bonkers. as the massed ranks of Millers fans chanted “We are staying up, say we are staying up”. Their side, dominant until the last 10 minutes, strode to survival, threatening more goals along the way.
With the pressure on after a nervy, goalless first half, they stood up just when they needed to
Hear that, Lee Gregory of Millwall? They stood up just when they needed to.
Striker Gregory had infamously said of Rotherham on the eve of this match that “they will bottle it” and the South London outfit would stay up
He can contemplate the stupidity of that statement all next season in League One while he looks up at the Millers in the Championship.
For last night’s win relegated his club and Wigan Athletic.
Millers manager Steve Evans said: “You can tell Lee Gregory we’ve got 12 bottles of champagne here to celebrate with tonight,”
After four promotions in four years, two of them with the Millers - Evans reckoned that what he and his players had pulled off at the unfamiliar end of the table was his biggest achievement in football.
“This is bigger than the play-off win at Wembley,” he maintained. “When you consider the quality of the opposition we face on a weekly basis and the setback of having points taken off us by the Football League, this is the best feeling I have had as a manager.”
Reading scored with three minutes of normal time remaining through Oliver Nowood to set up almost unbearable tension, but Rotherham got the job done.
The breakthrough came in the 52nd minute when Danny Ward sent over a low cross from the left and Derbyshire, in such deadly form since Janaury, did the rest from close range with his 11th goal in four months.
Six minutes later Ward did it again. This time his searching low cross evaded Derbyshire but fell perfectly for Frecklington. Freck, the goalscoring last-day hero of the League Two promotion season in 2013, did it again, sweeping the ball home.
There were joyous scenes at the end, with fans invading the pitch in their thousands. Did I mention ‘we are staying up’?
The players came out on to the New York balcony, swigging champagne and drinking in the atmosphere. Hangovers for them in the morning, a party for fans at Leeds on Saturday on the final day.
And, yes, Evans was in the middle of it all. The roof almost came off as he appeared and his tie, as promised, certainly did.
The fans had responded to his call to turn out in numbers and filled all four sides of the crowd, with a pocket of Reading supporters just a blue smear in a sea of red.
The Millers, unchanged from Saturday’s huge effort in the 1-1 draw with Norwich City, lacked for nothing in application in the first half with so much at stake but there was a lack of precision in the rush to go forward with too many passes going astray.
The visitors, safe and with nothing to play for, kept eight men behind the ball and were happy to drop back and threaten sporadically but with no real end product on the break.
The big chance of the half came in the 44th minute when the goal opened from the edge of the area for Frecklington and the midfielder’s stinging half-volley brought a good save from Reading keeper Mikkel Anderson.
But who cares what happened before the interval? All the real drama came later.
Heaven knows what kind of sight Evans cuts as he struts around his well-maintained garden this morning.
The Rotherham boss, after a season of fighting against the odds, had warned before last night’s match that he would be out in his shorts, flip-flops and sombrero if the Millers had secured safety - even if the temperature was minus five.
Bearing in mind all the obstacles the Millers have overcome - not least that FL points deduction - to get where they now stand today, maybe a different temperature would be more appropriate.
Goals: Derbyshire 52, Frecklington 58 (Rotherham); Norwood 87 (Reading).
Rotherham United (4-4-3): Martinez; Hunt, Morgan, Broadfoot (Wood 62), Lafferty; Frecklington, Smallwood, Arnason, Pringle; Derbyshire (Bowery 80), Ward (Green 89). Subs not used: Collin, Green, Hammill, Wilson, Clarke-Harris.
Reading (4-1-3-2): Andersen; Gunter, Cooper, Hector, Obita (McCleary 62); Norwood; Karacan, Chalobah (Mackie 62) Kelly; Cox, Pogrebnyak (Stacey 82). Subs not used: Federici, Pearce, Blackman, Appiah.
Referee: Graham Salisbury (Lancashire).
Attendance: 11,123 (210).