Charlton Athletic beat Doncaster on penalties to reach the League One play-off final after Rovers had forced extra-time on a dramatic night at The Valley.
Krystian Bielik’s second-minute header made it 3-1 to the hosts on aggregate and seemed like it would put the Addicks comfortably on course for the final, but a driven effort from Doncaster captain Tommy Rowe and Andy Butler’s late header sent the tie to extra time.
Doncaster went ahead on aggregate for the first time when John Marquis nodded in Mallik Wilks’ centre in the 100th minute, but Darren Pratley made it 4-4 overall when he turned a loose ball home after Marko Marosi had spilled Lyle Taylor’s low cross.
Charlton centre-back Naby Sarr missed the chance to win it in the shootout after Dillon Phillips had saved from Marquis, but Rowe blazed wide to send the Addicks to Wembley and spark a pitch invasion by home fans.
Lee Bowyer’s side – beaten play-off semi-finalists last season – will now face Sunderland at the national stadium on Sunday, 26 May, with the south-east London club aiming to end their three-year exile from the Championship.
Charlton, who finished third – 15 points ahead of Rovers in the table – took an early lead through Bielik’s thumping header from Josh Cullen’s clipped free-kick.
The Addicks were unbeaten in 17 home league games coming into the second leg, but a smart flick from Herbie Kane allowed Rowe to equalise and a brilliant low save from Dillon Phillips stopped Marquis from making it 2-1 on the night shortly afterwards.
The second half became increasingly fractious and had few chances of note, although Josh Parker prodded narrowly wide from a ball in from Taylor, before Butler rose high at the back post to head in Ali Crawford’s corner late on and send the match into extra time.
Former Millwall striker Marquis put the visitors ahead with his 26th goal of the campaign but the Addicks hit back immediately through Pratley to send the game to spot-kicks.
Playing at a sold-out stadium, with their biggest crowd since 2012 – the year the Addicks won the League One title – Rowe’s miss allowed the home fans to celebrate with players on the pitch and contemplate a return to the second tier, despite suffering their first home league defeat since October.
Charlton’s progress sets up a repeat of the 1998 second-tier play-off final, when they beat Sunderland 7-6 on penalties following a dramatic 4-4 draw at the old Wembley, a match which included a hat-trick for former Addicks striker Clive Mendonca.
Charlton Athletic boss Lee Bowyer:
“I said it would be a proper football match, with two teams who put their bodies on the line, and both sets of players gave their all.
“We were so tired but the players kept going through extra time. No-one has done to us this season what Doncaster did tonight.
“I was OK through the penalty shoot-out. You just hope that your keeper guesses right, which he did.
“To lead this unique set of players out at Wembley, with our fans singing their hearts out like they do, I think it will be an emotional time for me.”
Doncaster Rovers manager Grant McCann:
“I am extremely proud. On reflection, apart from the first half in the first game we were the better team overall.
“The players were outstanding after no-one gave us a chance but, to a man, we were first class. I have a squad who believe in their ability and are together, but unfortunately penalties are a bit of a lottery.
“Everyone should be proud of themselves because we have played them off the park and taken them all the way.
“We had some glorious chances tonight but congratulations to Charlton because they have done it. This has given us a taster for next season and this group will be stronger.”
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