Hawke's Bay United secured a berth in the ASB Premiership Grand Final on Sunday, overturning a first leg deficit with an extraordinary 4-3 semi-final second leg win at David Farrington Park.
Entering Sunday's second leg in a 2-1 hole after last week's first leg in Napier, the visitors rebounded sensationally as both teams traded goals throughout the 90 minutes of pulsating action which eventually saw Hawke's Bay come out on top 4-3 and the aggregate score 5-5.
Brett Angell's side qualify for the final courtesy of their four away goals scored on Sunday.
League joint Golden Boot winner Sean Lovemore gave the visitors just the start they needed, opening the scoring in the eighth minute.
Tim Myers replied for the home side eight minutes later, the Team Wellington defender profiting from a goalmouth scramble after a corner which saw the ball eventually ricochet into the net off his leg.
Undeterred, Angell's team kept coming and when the assistant referee awarded a penalty to Hawke's Bay just before the half hour, Ryan Tinsley stepped up to give his team a 2-1 lead to pull the tie level at 3-3 with both sides on two away goals.
But the hosts responded and Ian Hogg levelled the match at 2-2 and put his side up 4-3 on aggregate when he headed in a Luis Corrales cross off the post 10 minutes before halftime.
The next twist came just two minutes into the second frame, Facundo Barbero smashing home Lovemore's cross to put the visitors 3-2 ahead with the tie now 4-4 on aggregate and Angell's side ahead on away goals 3-2.
That score line lasted all of 20 minutes before Team Wellington captain Bill Robertson turned things once again, rifling home after a corner to level the scores at 3-3 and put his side ahead 5-4 on aggregate.
Incredibly, the match turned again when Hawke's Bay were awarded a 71st minute penalty after a foul on Saul Halpin and Tinsley made it 4-3 on the day and 5-5 on aggregate with the visitors ahead on away goals.
The home side had several opportunities in the dying stages to sensationally steal it away from Hawke's Bay but a late Henry Fa'arodo effort in stoppage time came crashing back off the post.
There was yet another twist in the late going, Alex Feneridis sent off for a challenge on Tinsley moments before the final whistle confirmed Hawke's Bay United in their first ASB Premiership Grand Final appearance.
Hawke's Bay United captain Ross Haviland paid tribute to his side who set the tone for one of the greatest matches the league has seen with a high octane opening.
"I'm just absolutely buzzing for lads really," Haviland said moments after the final whistle.
"I'm so proud of these lads, they've come so far in such a short time. Words can't describe the feeling right now. We're incredibly happy."
"We were ready for today and we were ready for whatever outcome and we were just going to fight to the end and that's what we did."
"At training we were talking about it, it's the game of the season. We knew what we had to do. We looked energetic at the start and scored a good goal early and we just kept going and didn't stop."
"It's all credit to them. We're a young team come together and it's a great ending to a story. It will top it off if we get the win next week as well."
Team Wellington coach Matt Calcott said Hawke's Bay's momentum built off the back of getting on the board early via Lovemore.
"They've scored that goal early and I think Sean's done pretty well to be honest with you, and that did set the tone," Calcott said.
"We've conceded four goals at home and when you do that in a semi-final, the chances of you going through are very slim."
"How many times in a two-legged final do the opposition get three penalties, and three contentious penalties? That's probably something we're disappointed with and it's changed the balance of the tie to some degree.
"But we had a lot of chances at the end and if we had taken a couple of those chances then obviously things change."
Calcott says the side will now take a few days break next week as they switch focus to the Oceania Champions League in Fiji in April.
"I think we'll have a bit of time out over the next four or five days and we'll regroup some stage at Easter and it's probably what the group needs. It's been a pretty full on seven or eight months and we'll look to freshen up mentally and physically given what's happened today."
Auckland City march on
Auckland City FC clinched a berth in the ASB Premiership Grand Final on Sunday, ruthlessly killing off the hopes of cross-town rivals Waitakere United with a 5-1 second leg win at Kiwitea Street.
Entering Sunday's clash with a 2-0 advantage after last weekend's first leg, Auckland City effectively ended the contest in the first 20 minutes on Sunday - taking a 3-0 lead and boosting their aggregate advantage to 5-0.
Youngster David Browne scored twice in two minutes in those early stages while Joao Moreira added their third in the 17th minute before two second half goals bloated the margin as Browne completed his hat-trick and Oscar Garcia finished the job.
Waitakere pulled a goal back in the final 20 minutes via leading scorer Derice Richards but that was all the visitors had to show for their work as Auckland City joined Hawke's Bay United in the April 5 Grand Final.
Sunday's victory was the 12th in succession for Ramon Tribulietx's side.
Tribulietx said the opening phase of the game was one of the team's strongest periods of play during a season which has seen the side put in a number of excellent displays, both within the league and other international competitions - including the FIFA Club World Cup.
"The first 25 or 30 minutes of the game we played a fantastic game," Tribulietx said.
"The tempo with the ball, the ideas, the movement was fantastic. It was probably one of the best performances of the whole season.
"The way the team moved the ball, the simplicity and the decision making was superb. We scored three and after that it was going to be difficult for them. It was just a matter of controlling the game with the ball which is what we did.
"I'm very happy with the way the team played the game apart from the result."
Browne was a key contributor on Sunday with Tribulietx saying it was more than his goals that helped propel the team into the final.
"Apart from the goals, his decision making on the ball was fantastic and I really appreciated the way he played.
"He gave us a lot of continuity when he had to and he has the talent to put the ball away when he has got the opportunity. I'm happy with the way he's maturing and today he has proved he is on the way to becoming a very good player, if he's not already."
Meanwhile, Waitakere United player/coach Brian Shelley felt the game highlighted what he feels is a growing gap between the defending champions and the rest of the league.
"We're really disappointed with how we finished the season today," Shelley said.
"We worked really hard to get ourselves into the playoffs and give ourselves the chance of progressing.
"But as much as we are disappointed I think the game today highlighted the quality that Auckland City have, both within the team and the squad."
"For me this season they've operated on another level and then been competitive domestically and internationally and there's a gap developing between Auckland City and the rest of the teams and that was highlighted today.
"We certainly didn't help ourselves with our performance but that's not taking away from the quality that Auckland City showed today. The best team in the country has progressed to the final."