Ranked: The most dramatic Championship Play-Off Finals ever!
The Championship play-off final is known as the richest game in world football and tonight, it will be contested by Brentford and Fulham at an empty Wembley Stadium.
There is so much on the line in the final for both sides, which is why we’ve seen some dramatic games since the second-tier officially became the Championship in 2005.
So, ahead of tonight’s final, we’ve decided to take a look back at all 15 Championship play-off finals and rank them in terms of how dramatic they actually were.
15: Middlesbrough 0-2 Norwich City - 2015
Norwich City managed to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking in 2015 with a Wembley win over Middlesbrough. Goals from Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond inside the first 15 minutes was enough for Alex Neil’s side.
14: Leeds United 0-3 Watford - 2006
The last play-off final at the Millenium Stadium came between Watford and Leeds United. The Hornets, led by Aidy Boothroyd, ran out 3-0 winners against the Whites, and that result remains the biggest margin of victory in a Championship play-off final to date.
13: West Ham 1-0 Preston North End - 2005
The First Division was renamed the Championship during the 2004/05 campaign, and West Ham were the first winners in the playoffs. Bobby Zamora was the match-winner in Cardiff.
12: Burnley 1-0 Sheffield United - 2009
Another memorable Wembley strike came 12 months later and was also the difference in a 1-0 win. Burnley’s Wade Elliott was the man in the spotlight following his fine free-kick against Sheffield United.
11: Fulham 1-0 Aston Villa - 2018
Plenty of playoff finals have ended up with a 1-0 scoreline. The last time that happened came in 2018 between Fulham and Aston Villa. Tom Cairney finished off a lovely move in the first half to leave John Terry and his Aston Villa teammates devastated.
10: Sheffield Wednesday 0-1 Hull City - 2016
Sheffield Wednesday came agonisingly close to ending their then 16-year absence from the top flight in 2016, however, the Owls were defeated by some individual brilliance from Mohamed Diame. The Hull midfielder scored a beautiful effort from outside the box with 20 minutes to go to seal the win.
9: Crystal Palace 1-0 Watford - 2013
Wilfried Zaha’s form was influential in helping Crystal Palace to the Premier League in 2013, but it was veteran Kevin Phillips who was the match-winner at Wembley. The striker had been on the wrong end of three previous play-off finals, but his penalty in extra time proved to be the difference.
8: Aston Villa 2-1 Derby County - 2019
One of the most memorable finals came last year between Aston Villa and Derby County. They were both desperate to reach the Premier League after impressing in the second half of the campaign and had plenty of Premier League loanees in their sides. Villa would go on to return to the top-flight thanks to goals from Anwar El-Ghazi and John McGinn.
7: Reading 2-4 Swansea City - 2011
Reading and Swansea’s six-goal thriller in 2011 remains the highest scoring Championship play-off final of all time. Scott Sinclair was the hero for Brendan Rodgers’ side in a 4-2 win as Swansea became the first Welsh side to reach the Premier League.
6: Bristol City 0-1 Hull City - 2008
Wembley tends to make heroes, especially in the playoffs, and it was an afternoon to remember for 39-year-old striker Dean Windass in the 2008 final between Hull City and Bristol City. Windass’ perfect volley booked Hull’s spot in the Premier League for the first time in the club’s 104-year history.
5: Derby County 1-0 West Brom - 2007
Derby County have been involved in three Championship play-off finals over the last 15 years, and the first was one to remember for the Rams. The Baggies dominated the majority of the encounter at Wembley, but it was Stephen Pearson’s goal that sent Derby up.
4: Huddersfield Town 0-0 Reading (4-3 pens) - 2017
Huddersfield and Reading’s meeting in the 2018 final was fairly dull, but it provided plenty of drama when their 0-0 stalemate went to penalties. The Terries were trailing in the shootout but managed to overturn the deficit and win promotion to the Premier League for the first time. They somehow triumphed in the playoffs without scoring a goal!
3: Blackpool 1-2 West Ham - 2012
West Ham managed to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking after a tense win over Blackpool in 2012. Ricardo Vaz Te struck a late winner for Sam Allardyce’s side right in front of the Hammers faithful.
2: Blackpool 3-2 Cardiff City - 2010
Blackpool’s thrilling win over Cardiff City in 2010 is one the most dramatic over the last 15 years. The Tangerines won 3-2, with all the goals coming during an opening half of end-to-end action and poor defending. Cardiff went ahead twice, but Ian Hollaway’s Blackpool side pegged them back, with Brett Ormerod netting the winner.
1: Derby County 0-1 QPR - 2014
Derby have had their fair share of play-off final heartbreak, with the late defeat to Queens Park Rangers going down as one one of the most dramatic moments in Championship history. Richard Keogh’s 90th-minute error allowed Bobby Zamora to pounce and seal a 1-0 win for Harry Redknapp’s side