It was joy for Fulham as the Cottagers overturned a first-leg deficit, goals from Ryan Sessegnon and Denis Odoi sending the Londoners to a 2-0 victory over Derby County in the second leg of their Skybet Championship playoff final and a 2-1 aggregate win.
Fulham will now seek a return to the Premier League after four years away when they contest the Championship playoff final on May 26 against the winner of the other semifinal between Aston Villa and Middlesbrough.
Fulham dominate possession all game
Making one change from the team that lost on Friday night, Cottagers boss Slavisa Jokanovic inserted Aboubakar Kamara for Floyd Ayité. Fulham dominated the ball from start to finish, just as they had at Pride Park. Sessegnon might have opened the scoring within eight minutes, only to see his lofted effort turned over the bar by Rams goalkeeper Scott Carson.
On 25 minutes, Kevin McDonald and Aleksandar Mitrovic linked up well to tee up Stefan Johansen, but the Dane drove wide of Carson's goal. Mitrovic himself fired two shots agonisingly wide, before Carson beat away an explosive effort from Kamara.
Carson, under siege, was at his very best at the very end of the opening period, Mitrovic's well-struck header over the bar with his right hand as he dove to his left. The half ended goalless, but it was clear the home side were well and truly in control.
Cottagers strike twice to reach Wembley
Within two minutes of the restart, Johansen chested down a Matt Targett cross for Sessegnon and the 17-year old's first touch was of control, the second to smash past Carson with the second to give Fulham a 1-0 lead and level the tie.
The lead was doubled on 66 minutes, Derby falling further behind as Odoi brilliantly met Sessegnon’s cross to head past Carson and into the far corner to double the home side's lead in both the game and the tie overall.
It could have been three if not for the sliding challenge of Carson on the electric Kamara, the England stopper lucky to only see yellow. Rams boss Gary Rowett brought on Golden Boot winner Matej Vydra to try and rescue the situation and it nearly paid off, Fulham fans holding their breath when he drilled wide during six minutes of injury time.
Relief and joy swept through Craven Cottage following that moment as the Londoners were through to a Wembley match for the first time since 1975 whilst their visitors are consigned to another season in the second tier.
Delight for Jokanovic, despair for Rowett
Following the match, the Cottagers boss said that he was "very satisfied personally, for my players and the fans. We made a great step and will bring the team to Wembley after 43 years", Fulham winning a playoff for the first time ever.
"We believe in our way and the team have showed their confidence. It is a fantastic achievement. We will play the final and know that people only remember the team who wins the game" as the Cottagers seek a return to the top flight for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
"We must enjoy this moment and be happy, especially for our fans as they pushed us all year at home and did a crucial job for us tonight too."
Rowett was understandably upset of his team's effort, saying "The way we performed was the most disappointing thing for us. I think it's very easy to be critical, but I don't think that's the right thing to do".
He praised his squad, stating "I think the players over the two legs have given everything and worked incredibly hard. We've tried everything, we've had a go, we're disappointed. Sometimes you've got to handle that disappointment and move on" as the Rams face up to an 11th straight season outside the top flight.
"Three out of the four teams are going to be disappointed at the end of these play-offs and unfortunately we're the first ones."