For 48 minutes, Rotherham United dared to dream.
Against all odds, the Championship’s bottom side, already relegated from the second tier, chasing a first away win in more than a year, led at promotion-chasing Reading.
A Neil Diamond classic had blared from the Madejski Stadium PA system and, for a while, life was even sweeter than Caroline for the 156 Millers fans in Berkshire as their side held on to an 18th-minute advantage given to them by Tom Adeyemi.
In the second half, the fourth-placed Royals were pressing hard but Paul Warne’s men were holding firm in the hope of that long-waited victory on the road.
Enter Rotherham old boy Lewis Grabban.
The striker arrived as a 65th-minute sub and within a minute had buried a stunning volley past goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell who had kept out everything the home team could throw at him until that point.
It had been good while it lasted.
Then another former Miller, John Swift, tapped in at the back post in the 79th minute to restore order and condemn Rotherham to their 11th defeat in 12 matches.
“They threw the kitchen sink at us, but we were resolute,” said manager Warne. “It took a pretty special goal to get them back in it.
“I think Grabban was probably the only player on the pitch who could have scored like that.
“I was delighted with the first half and the first 15 minutes of the second. The way we played gives me grounds for optimisim next season.
“Ninety per cent of the players out there today will probably be with us next season in League One. It’s a good skeleton to build on. The lads are playing for nothing but pride but they never gave up.”
Rotherham, well organised and finding plenty of space on the counter-attack, had been well in the game in the first half.
They were the first team to show, with striker Danny Ward, in a role on the left flank in a 4-3-3 formation, trying his luck from 20 yards in the first minute.
And they took a shock lead as Adeyemi was on hand to poke the ball over the line after Carlton Morris’s header from Ward’s cross had been parried by Reading goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi.
It was the first goal the Millers have scored at the Madejski Stadium since their return to the Championship three seasons ago.
Rotherham have continually conceded soon after scoring but this time, five minutes after their breakthrough, keeper Richard O’Donnell kept their advantage intact with a sharp stop at his near post from Yakou Meite.
O’Donnell produced an even better stop after 33 minutes, diving full length to push away Meite’s fierce low drive, and Semi Ajayi’s goalsaving block kept out Millers old boy Swift’s follow-up.
Joe Mattock made sure the visitors went into half-time in high spirits, heading off the line as a Royals corner was bundled towards the Millers goal.
When Roy Beerens completely missed his kick as he shaped to shoot in the 54th minute and O’Donnell produced flying saves to keep out Swift and Yann Kermorgant headers, you sensed it just might be Rotherham’s day.
But the old-boy double, in a second-half of constant Reading pressure, changed all that, and 21 games on the road with just a solitary point to show for their efforts duly became 22 .
The Millers deserved the applause they received, and reciprocated, from their gaggle of away followers at the final whistle.
“We went toe to toe with a side pushing for promotion,” Warne added.
“I’m uber proud of the performance.”
Nearly so sweet. But the bitter taste of defeat again in the end.
Reading (4-2-3-1): Al-Habsi; Gunter, Moore, Blackett, Obita; Williams (Popa 90), Swift; Meite (Kelly H-T), Beerens (Grabban 65), McCleary; Kermorgant. Subs not used: Jaakkola, Evans, Ilori, Oxford.
Rotherham United (4-3-3): O’Donnell; Fisher (Clarke-Harris 74), Ajayi, Wood, Mattock; Vaulks, Smallwood, Adeyemi (Yates 83); Taylor, Morris (Newell 58), Ward. Subs not used: Bilboe, Belaid, Bray, Purrington.
Goals: Adeyemi 18 (Rotherham); Grabban 66, Swift 79 (Reading).
Referee: Christopher Kavanagh (Lancashire).
Attendance: 16,711 (156).