ROTHERHAM UNITED will be playing Championship football next year after a nail-biting penalty-shoot-out victory over Leyton Orient earned Steve Evans' men back-to-back promotions.
The Millers' chances looked dead and buried at half-time as Moses Odubajo and Dean Cox put the Londoners in the driving seat in the season-defining play-off finale.
However, Alex Revell came back to haunt his former club by halving the deficit before putting Rotherham on level terms with a fantastic strike from long range.
Neither side were able to take the initiative in extra-time and despite trailing early in the penalty count, Adam Collin was the hero as his smart save from sub Chris Dagnall saw Rotherham book their place in England's second tier.
Evans kept faith with his play-off semi-final winning starting line-up over Preston North End for the winner-takes-all trip to Wembley.
The only change to the squad being the return of young full-back Richard Brindley, who was named amongst the Millers' substitutes at the expense of Daniel Rowe.
Buoyed by a vocal travelling contingent, the Millers had the first sight of goal when Lee Frecklington was bundled over by Romain Vincelot but Mathieu Baudry rose highest to clear Ben Pringle's inswinging centre.
Moments later, Rotherham had faint appeals for a spot kick when Revell appeared to be felled by Nathan Clarke but referee David Coote waved away the Millers' protests.
The Millers were looking the most likely and Collin’s long punt upfield was met by the head of skipper Craig Morgan, whose downward header gave Wes Thomas, a sniff of goal but his goalbound effort was blocked by the legs of Jamie Jones, but any goal would have been chalked off as the referee had blown for an infringement.
At the other end, Orient had their first effort of note when Cox floated a centre which was flicked on by David Mooney but Odubajo blazed over from an acute angle.
Minutes later, Frecklington’s daisy-cutter failed to trouble Jones before James Tavernier tried his luck from distance forcing the Orient stopper into a smart save, as he gathered at the second attempt.
Just before the half-hour, Mooney struck into the side netting after Cox was crowded out before Scott Cuthbert became the first to see yellow after hauling down Pringle near the touchline.
Moments later, Morgan incurred the wrath of the referee by tugging down Mooney to earn a yellow card in the process and Orient made them pay with the opening goal from the resultant free-kick.
The Londoners planted the ball into the box and after Kari Arnason only half-cleared the danger, Odubajo controlled smartly before striking a rasping effort from distance which whistled through a ruck of bodies and with ‘keeper Collin possibly unsighted, the ball flew into the roof of the net.
Orient were visibly lifted by the strike and they gave the Millers a mountain to climb when they doubled their advantage soon after.
With the Millers struggling to deal with a ball forward, Mooney caused havoc in the Rotherham rearguard and Tavernier inadvertedly headed the ball into the path of Odubajo, who played a superb slide-rule ball across the box and with Collin a helpless bystander, Cox had the simple task of tapping into an empty net.
With half-time approaching, Pringle came within a whisker of reducing the arrears when he struck a fantastic dipping effort from long range which had Jones nervously scurrying backwards but the ball narrowly cleared the crossbar.
Half-time:- Leyton Orient 2 Rotherham United 0
Following the restart, Rotherham had an opportunity to get themselves back in the game when Baudry hauled down Revell on the edge of box but from the resultant free-kick, Tavernier’s curling effort whistled narrowly over the bar.
Minutes later, Lloyd James’ mistimed tackle halted Frecklington’s marauding run and from the other flank, Pringle’s free-kick from the just outside the box sailed over the bar.
However, the Millers were rewarded for their pressure at the third time of asking when Tavernier’s tantalising free-kick had the Orient defence at sixes and sevens and Kieran Agard got a timely foot on the ball as Orient looked to clear and Revell had the simple task of tapping into the unguarded goal.
The Millers were sniffing blood and they got themselves back on level terms with a wondergoal from Orient old boy Revell.
There looked little danger when Pringle floated a ball down the flank and Agard challenged for possession but the ball popped up invitingly for Revell, who struck a fantastic dipping effort from 35 yards which caught Jones by surprise and left him grasping for thin air as it found the heart of the Orient goal.
The Londoners were struggling to clear their heads and Clarke saw yellow for hauling down Tavernier before Mooney’s inviting pass bisected the Rotherham rearguard paving the way for Odubajo to fire a dangerous cross which was cleared by a retreating defender.
Moments later, Arnason’s long throw was flicked on by Morgan into the advancing run of Frecklington but the midfield maestro was inches away from making a telling contact before Tavernier became the latest to be cautioned for needlessly throwing the ball away.
With the game in the balance, James’ inviting centre bizarrely missed the Orient runners before Rotherham had an opportunity to take a decisive lead when sub Brindley’s long punt put Agard in the clear but the Millers’ hitman fluffed his lines, screwing his shot wide of the target when he should have done better.
With full-time approaching, Pringle was yellow-carded for cynically hauling down sub Shaun Batt near the touchline before Rotherham countered with menace but Pringle’s whipped cross was too deep for the onrushing Agard.
As extra-time loomed, a fine flowing move released Frecklington, whose clever cross to the front post found Agard but he couldn’t direct his header goalwards from a narrow angle before Pringle blasted over in the last play of normal time.
Full-time:- Leyton Orient 2 Rotherham United 2
In extra-time, Mooney became the latest to see yellow for tugging back Tavernier before Rotherham came within a whisker of taking the lead.
Arnason’s long-throw was flicked on by Revell at the front post and Cuthbert flashed a bullet header towards his own goal but ‘keeper Jones got his teammate out of jail with a superb reflex save.
At the other end, Mooney showed clever skill to flight a delicate chip which narrowly cleared the bar before Pringle was fortunate to escape further sanction when he clipped Batt just outside the box.
From the resultant free-kick, James curled an inviting centre which was met by the head of Clarke but his effort failed to trouble Collin.
First period of extra time:- Leyton Orient 2 Rotherham United 2
With the tie on a knife-edge, sub Chris Dagnall almost jinked his way into the box but he was crowded out by a retreating Millers defence before James’ cross-cum-shot had Rotherham hearts fluttering as the ball flashed in and around the six-yard box momentarily.
At the other end, sub Haris Vuckic turned smartly, paving the way for a snap shot which was deflected over the bar before Rotherham had to play with ten for the latter stages as Frecklington suffered a bout of cramp.
Second period of extra-time:- Leyton Orient 2 Rotherham United 2
1-0 Rotherham scored- Agard wrongfooted Jones by finding the heart of the net.
1-1 Orient scored- James converts by finding the top corner.
1-1 Rotherham missed- Frecklington's weak effort was saved by Jones, who dived correctly to his right.
1-2 Orient scored- Lundstram gives Orient the advantage by firing into the roof of the net.
2-2 Rotherham scored- Pringle cleverly wrongfooted Jones to find the bottom corner of the net.
2-3 Orient scored- Clarke kept his nerve to wrongfoot Collin and slide the ball into the bottom corner.
3-3 Rotherham scored- Tavernier's short run up and clipped shot kept Rotherham in it.
3-3 Orient missed- Baudry's effort was smothered by Collin, who dived correctly.
4-3 Rotherham scored- Smallwood kept his nerve to find the far corner of the net
4-3 Orient missed- Collin dived smartly to his right to keep out Dagnall's effort.
Teams:- Rotherham- Collin, Skarz (Milsom 76), Arnason, Frecklington, Revell (Vuckic 105), Pringle, Morgan, Agard, Thomas (Brindley 54), Tavernier, Smallwood.
Unused:- Shearer, Davis, Hitchcock, O’Connor.
Leyton Orient- Jones, Omozusi, Vincelot, Cuthbert, Baudry, Cox (Batt 74), James, Lisbie (Dagnall 76), Mooney (Lundstram 106), Odubajo, Clarke.
Unused:- Sawyer, Larkins, Bartley, Simpson.
Referee:- David Coote
Man of the Match:- Alex Revell