Grant Leadbitter has revealed his anguish after leading Sunderland to the play-off final the day after the death of his mum.
The Black Cats midfielder helped his side to a 1-0 aggregate victory following a 0-0 draw at Portsmouth on Thursday.
Wembley now beckons for Sunderland, who will face either Charlton or Doncaster in the showpiece event.
But the long-serving academy product revealed his mum passed away on Wednesday after a battle with cancer.
Leadbitter wrote: "Last couple of days have been tough, not just myself but my 2 sisters too. To lose my mam on Wednesday was horrible, but I know now she is at peace now after tough battle of cancer. She now rests alongside my Dad.
"Life throws you curve balls and we all have to keep fighting. I wanted to play last night because my mam and dad would be disappointed if I didn't.
“Thanks for your support and kind messages. Lastly, the job is far from done, we have one more tough game to go."
Academy graduate Leadbitter's father Brian died in 2008 at the age of just 50, and his ashes were buried under the pitch at the Stadium of Light.
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