Oxford beat Portsmouth 5-4 on penalties to reach the League One play-off final as Cameron Brannagan’s decisive spot-kick sent them to Wembley after a tense 2-2 draw on aggregate.
Oxford keeper Simon Eastwood saved from Cameron McGeehan to keep out Pompey’s fourth penalty, with what was the only miss of the shootout, as the hosts netted five from five to stay in the promotion race.
The two sides could not be separated after 210 minutes of their hard-fought semi-final, drawing 1-1 at the Kassam Stadium to keep the tie level on aggregate and ensure it had to be decided with spot kicks.
Marcus Harness had put Kenny Jackett’s men in front in with a good touch and low finish to complete a swift, route-one move but Ellis Harrison’s own-goal deep in first-half stoppage time saw Oxford pull level.
Both sides had key chances to win the tie before the shootout but Eastwood and Brannagan became the heroes for Karl Robinson’s men, who were jubilant at the end.
They go onto the final at Wembley on 13 July where they will face either Fleetwood or Wycombe, whose second leg started later on Monday – their kick-off being delayed until 19:45 BST because of the drama in Oxfordshire.
Victory kept alive Oxford’s hopes of returning to the second tier for the first time since 1999, while Pompey’s narrow defeat ensured they will face a ninth consecutive season playing below the Championship.
Monday’s late drama saw the Hampshire club exit the play-offs at the semi-final stage for a second straight year, after their defeat by Sunderland over two legs in 2019.
Oxford and Pompey had been level on points in the table before the coronavirus pandemic saw football suspended in March, both sitting just two points off an automatic promotion place, and they were placed fourth and fifth respectively when the division was curtailed using an average points-per-game system.
And, just as they had been mathematically in the table, the two teams were extremely evenly matched across their two-legged semi-final.
More to follow.