Southend United 2-1 Sunderland
Sunderland will face Portsmouth in the Play-Off semi-finals following a 2-1 defeat to Southend United at Saturday.
John White opened the scoring at Roots Hall – and it was a strike that had big implications at the top and bottom of the table.
However, the defender turned from hero to zero with 15 minutes remaining, as a rash challenge resulted in Chris Maguire netting from the spot.
The drama wasn’t over, though, and with two minutes of normal time remaining, Stephen Humphrys scored the winner to secure Southend’s League One status.
Sunderland will now switch their attentions to a semi-final match-up against Pompey, with the first leg set to take place at the Stadium of Light on Saturday 11 May at 7.45pm.
Jack Ross made four changes for the final outing of the regular season, as Denver Hume, Adam Matthews, Grant Leadbitter and Charlie Wyke came into the starting XI.
Lee Cattermole, George Honeyman and Lewis Morgan didn’t travel to Roots Hall, while Bryan Oviedo dropped to a bench that also included Lee Connelly.
Facing relegation to the fourth tier, Southend entered the game knowing they needed to make the most of any chances that fell their way – but they spurned a glorious opening with eight minutes played.
Dru Yearwood was the culprit but Jon McLaughlin played his part to deny the midfielder one-on-one after he was played through on goal by Simon Cox.
Moments later, news filtered through that Plymouth Argyle had taken a chance against Scunthorpe United, and as the Shrimpers dropped into the bottom four, home nerves began to jangle.
The Lads’ first real chance arrived when Hume drove down the left and picked out Lynden Gooch, but the chance was all about Maguire, who turned his man inside-out before firing into the side-netting.
Hume continued to menace and this time he picked out Wyke, but an offside flag brought a premature end to another promising attack.
With 43 minutes played, a sea of blue burst into life, as White’s acrobatic effort flew past McLaughlin.
As it stood, the goal lifted the Shrimpers out of the bottom three and resulted in Sunderland dropping to fifth.
Ross made a double change following the restart, with Luke O’Nien and Kaz Sterling entering the fray.
The latter made an immediate impact, testing Southend with pace and trickery, but the home side held firm, while also avoiding a scare when the on-loan Spurs man flashed a menacing ball across the six-yard box.
Leadbitter also fired wide in the stages that followed, before a moment of madness from Bwmono left Wyke in a heap and the referee pointing to the spot.
Maguire stepped up and scored – but the Lads knew they needed another to have any hope of finishing third, with Southend knowing that only a winner would do in their quest for survival.
With just two minutes remaining, Roots Hall erupted.
Humphrys was the hero, with Sunderland dropping to fifth to set-up a meeting with Portsmouth.
Southend United: Oxley, White, Turner, Moore (Humphrys 78), Bwmono, Mantom, Kiernan, Yearwood (Dieng 71), Hart (Kightly 68), Cox, McLaughlin.
Subs not used: Bishop, Lennon, Hendrie, Hutchinson.
Sunderland: McLaughlin, Flanagan, Ozturk, Matthews, Hume, Leadbitter, Power (McGeouch 68), Maguire, Gooch (O’Nien 56), Wyke, Grigg (Sterling 56).
Subs not used: Ruiter, Oviedo, Dunne, Connolly.