The Queen's Park Rangers manager, Ian Holloway, had suggested that the second leg of this Second Division play-off semi-final would see some of his players transform themselves from boys into men.
However, when he said that, it presumably did not apply to Paul Furlong. The bustling former Chelsea striker, 34, underwent that transition some time ago, and he used all the experience gleaned over half a lifetime to score the 82nd-minute goal that won this game. It now means the west London side have the daunting task of facing Cardiff City in the latter's home town in the play-off final at the end of this month, with the last promotion place to the First Division at stake.
Oldham did not bow out without a fight, though. Wayne Andrews was sent off in injury time for violent conduct before QPR's Chris Day pulled off a magnificent save low down from a deflected shot.
All the evidence had pointed to this decisive match being a close one. After all, 46 league games had left them separated by just a point and the first leg of their semi-final had ended in a 1-1 draw at the weekend.
If anything, though, the form book slightly favoured Oldham, despite their manager Iain Dowie – a former QPR player and caretaker manager – playing down their chances. A glance at the recent history between these clubs showed that QPR had gone seven games since their last victory against the Latics, and that came seven years ago at Boundary Park. But Rangers and Furlong were in no mood to follow history. The former Birmingham and Watford player ran on to a well-weighted pass from Clarke Carlisle and held off the challenge of Fitz Hall, before poking his shot into the bottom corner of Les Pogliacomi's net.
QPR had tested the Oldham goalkeeper as early as the second minute, when Kevin McLeod shot against his legs. Yet the longer the match wore on the more it showed that the Londoners were missing their main creative influence in Richard Langley, who had scored on Saturday but was also sent off, forcing Holloway to shuffle his line-up.
Oldham's main threat came early in the second half when strikes by Josh Low and John Eyre flew over Day's crossbar, before Furlong had his chance to settle matters and take QPR to the Millennium Stadium.
Dowie said: "I take defeat with an enormous amount of pride, but it hurts and burns and I'm angry. As for QPR, I had good times here and I'm pleased they're going on."
A relieved Holloway declared: "The lads have got spirit and the fans deserve this. Cardiff will now be another test. I believe we've got the right ingredients to give ourselves a chance."
Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Day; Padula (Williams, 71), Carlisle, Shittu, Kelly; McLeod, Palmer, Bircham, Gallen; Thomson (Pacquette, 56), Furlong. Substitutes not used: Culkin (gk), Forbes, Angell.
Oldham Athletic (3-5-2): Pogliacomi; Haining, Hill, Hall; Eyre (Corazzin, 73), Murray (Carrs, 84), Armstrong, D Sheridan (Duxbury, 84), Low; Eyre, Andrews. Substitutes not used: Miskelly (gk), Baudet.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Chester-le-Street).
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