Sunderland clinch play-off date against Luton after victory away to Preston
Sunderland’s Premier League dream remained alive after they clinched a play-off place on the final day of the season, scoring three times inside 11 minutes to beat Preston 3-0 at Deepdale.
Goals from Amad Diallo, Alex Pritchard and Jack Clarke did the trick on a day to remember.
The Black Cats needed results elsewhere to go their way and Millwall’s failure to win saw them sneak into the top six; Tony Mowbray’s side will now face Luton over two legs for a place at Wembley.
If they manage to go up, they will become just the fourth side to achieve back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premier League.
Sunderland travelled to Lancashire unbeaten in eight games and, despite the odds being stacked against them, they sold out the away end with their fans being by far the loudest of both sets of supporters.
However, the electric atmosphere did not seem to transfer onto the pitch, with the Black Cats looking nervy from the off, and Preston took advantage with multiple crosses into the box but without being able to score.
The visitors responded, with a curling shot from the edge of the box from Patrick Roberts heading for the top corner until it was denied by a superb save from Freddie Woodman.
Just before the break, Preston had the best chance of the first period, with striker Liam Delap, on loan from Manchester City, latching onto a through ball and finding himself one-on-one but he was only able to drag his shot wide.
Both sides will have felt they should have been ahead at half-time and could have come to rue their missed chances.
Sunderland came out in the second half with a lot more intensity, knowing they needed to score to have any chance of securing the final play-off berth.
They looked dangerous and eventually took the lead through Manchester United loanee Diallo, who perfectly placed the ball into the top left-hand corner.
It was very much end-to-end from then on and if it had not been for a goal-line clearance, Preston would have equalised from a corner.
The Black Cats eventually doubled their lead with the ball falling for midfielder Pritchard on the edge of the box and he made no mistake in finding the back of the net.
The visiting supporters drowned out every other noise in the ground and it spurred the players on to grab a third, Clarke creating space on the right-hand side and slotting the ball past Woodman.
Sunderland’s players remained calm and did all they could to run down the clock, while their fans only became louder as they heard the news of Blackburn’s impending victory over Millwall before the full-time whistle sent them into a frenzy.