The Championship is never straight forward and Nottingham Forest fans knew better than to be confident of making the play-offs ahead of their final game of the season.
They had been in the top six since Boxing Day – surely this was the year they finally got their chance at ending a 21-year wait for a return to the top-flight of English football?
The club sat in fifth, level on points with Cardiff in sixth and three clear of Swansea in seventh. Just a point was needed against Stoke, a team with nothing to play for, to ensure their play-off place.
But it was heartache once more for Forest as a crazy night of football saw the final two places go to the two teams in South Wales. Just how did it all fall apart for Sabri Lamouchi’s side? Sportsmail takes a look.
It was drama at the top and bottom of the table with teams changing places with each other as goals flew in around the grounds.
Forest were the favourites to secure a play-off place before kick-off with Cardiff and Swansea expected to battle it out for sixth.
Swansea, who needed to beat Reading and hope for a Stoke victory, also had to overturn a five-goal swing. They could also have qualified if Cardiff were beaten at home by bottom-of-the-table Hull, who had to win to have any chance of survival. It was a tough ask.
The Bluebirds took a comfortable 2-0 lead into half-time and looked home and dry after adding a third as attention turned towards the City ground and the Madejski.
Danny Batth’s 19th-minute strike had given Stoke a 1-0 lead heading into the break to get Forest fans’ stomach’s churning. But there was no reason for panic as Reading’s George Puscas scored a penalty just before half-time to cancel out Rhian Brewster’s early goal for the Swans – a draw was not enough for them.
On 61 minutes Forest got the goal they had been looking for as Tobias Figueiredo levelled the scores. That looked to be game over for the Swans but a goal from Wayne Routledge added a bit more pressure on to their opponents.
And then came the Forest crumble. Two goals in five minutes from James McClean and Lee Gregory put Stoke 3-1 ahead meaning Swansea needed just two more to leapfrog into sixth on goals scored.
Liam Cullen made it 3-1 to the Welsh side with six minutes of normal time remaining as Steve Cooper’s team pushed for one more.
In the 91st minute Routledge grabbed his second and completed the almost impossible as the Swans climbed into the play-offs with minutes remaining in both games.
Forest needed a goal and they got one – but it was at the wrong end as Joia Nuno Da Costa put the ball in his own net in the 96th minute to bring a frantic and heartbreaking night to a conclusion.
It was a familiar story for Forest fans who have endured their fair share of heartache over the years, but even the most pessimistic supporters will have found this difficult to process.
England cricketer Stuart Broad, a well-known Forest fan, admitted he could not believe what he had just seen seen as other supporters shared their ’embarrassment’.
One wrote that ‘only Nottingham Forest’ could have imploded in such a way.
Comedian Matt Forde admitted he was shocked and stunned and said the defeat would take a while to get over.
A Forest fan called Hannah seemed to be the only person confident that their team would not blow their chance, but her words unfortunately came back to haunt her.
She wrote: ‘Are people really worried that we will blow a six-goal difference in one match? Even I’m not fretting. And that’s a good sign. Believe me.’
To make matters worse for supporters, the club’s former owner Fawaz Al-Hasawi appeared to be very much enjoying the team’s capitulation.
After Athletic reporter Paul Taylor shared a jubilant tweet following Forest’s equaliser, Al-Hasawi responded with a winking face emoji at the end of the game to rub salt into the wounds.
Forest were fourth with six games to play, seven points clear of rivals Derby in seventh and 10 clear of Swansea who were ninth.
It was the game against their rivals on July 4 that started their slump in the final fixtures of the season.
Joe Lolley had given Forest the lead at the Pride Park and the visitors looked to be heading for a vital three points. Had they won they would have been just four points off second.
But in the eighth minute of injury time Chris Martin scrambled home an equaliser for the 10-man Rams.
That setback proved to be decisive as the Forest players took a huge confidence knock into the final five games.
A 1-0 defeat by Fulham followed and Lamouchi’s side could only manage draws with Preston and Swansea in their next fixtures.
The penultimate game with Barnsley seemed like a good chance to get the final point needed to qualify for the play-offs but the South Yorkshire side had to win to have any chance of staying in the division.
Forest were seconds away from securing their place but a 94th minute goal from Patrick Schmidt gave Barnsley a vital victory and took the top-six race to the final day.
The Tykes went on to stay up as Forest missed out on a shot at promotion once more. The post-coronavirus Championship league table shows how far Forest had slumped with the team in 15th after picking up just 10 points in nine games.
The long wait for top-flight football to return to the City ground continues as fans, players and staff come to terms with the gut-wrenching end to the 2019-20 season.