It was a relieved atmosphere that descended on the city of Hull when the full-time whistle blew, as a spirited Derby County performance almost caused an upset at the KC Stadium.
The Tigers went down 2-0 on the night, but progressed to the play-off fina thanks to a healthy first leg lead.
A glimmer of hope
The Rams had it all to do after trailing 3-0 from their home leg and not many people gave the East Midlands club any kind of hope going into the match. Yet Derby were keen to produce a spirited display to make up for a poor performance in the first leg and they can certainly hold their heads high after almost proving pundits, bookmakers and fans wrong in a nervy second leg.
The visitors knew they had to score early to hold any chance of reaching Wembley and winger Johnny Russell gave them hope when he guided home a game of pinball in the box to grab a goal back for Derby as early as the seventh minute. Hull looked a shadow of the team that walked over Derby at the weekend and surrendered possession as if they were an away team fighting for survival rather than pushing for promotion.
The Tigers eventually began to get some shots away without ever really testing the Derby goal, before pressure from the giant figure of Chris Martin forced Hull defender Andrew Robertson to slice into his own goal. Martin himself was unlucky not to force the game level after the break when he saw his shot parried away as Hull tried to regroup.
Too little too late
Yet with fifteen minutes to go, the constant pressure and energy exerted by the visitors was beginning to tell and they began to run out of steam. The Rams continued to launch the ball forward but it was a case of too little too late as Hull nervously held out.
Steve Bruce took a sharp intake of breath as the full-time whistle blew and the man that has overseen three Championship promotions will know only too well that his team will need to improve before they play Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley for a place in the Premier League. For Derby it was a case of what could have been if only they had performed during their home leg.