Jermaine Beckford scored a hat-trick as Preston North End secured promotion to the Championship with a 4-0 demolition of Swindon Town at Wembley.
The Deepdale outfit travelled to the national stadium hoping to end their play-off hoodoo, having failed in their last nine attempts to win promotion via the end-of-season knockouts.
But manager Simon Grayson is a promotion specialist having climbed out of League One with three separate clubs – twice via the play-offs – and the former Blackpool, Leeds United and Huddersfield Town boss proved to be the lucky charm Preston needed.
It is Beckford, though, who will dominate the headlines and the striker had Preston in front after just three minutes, diverting home from a free-kick under pressure from Nathan Thompson.
Swindon captain Thompson hit the deck in attempting to prevent Beckford’s opener and left the field on a stretcher to deal Mark Cooper’s men an early double blow.
It took Preston just 10 minutes to add to their lead, with Paul Huntington tapping in from six yards after receiving the ball from Paul Gallagher.
Michael Smith headed just wide as Swindon looked to reduce the deficit before half-time, but Preston soon had the ball in the back of the net at the other end.
Beckford collected the ball 25 yards out before curling a sublime effort beyond goalkeeper Wes Foderingham from the edge of the box.
The interval came as welcome relief for Swindon, but the County Ground side found themselves 4-0 down by the hour mark as Beckford completed his treble – applying a neat finish after being sent clean through on goal.
Sam Johnstone tipped over a late Jon Obika header, but a number of Swindon’s fans had long since headed for the exits to contemplate another season in League One.
Preston return to the second tier for the first time since 2011, while Beckford becomes only the third player to score a hat-trick in a Wembley play-off final, after Charlton’s Clive Mendonca in 1998 and Swansea City’s Scott Sinclair in 2011.
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