Millwall had started the day in the play-offs with dreams of seizing the last automatic promotion place from League One. Those dreams were not so fanciful given they were only a point behind Leeds United. But there was also a profound desire that they could be realised because the play-offs have not been the best friend of the south London club.
Last year, as favourites, they lost the final at Wembley against Scunthorpe, which was the fifth time they had failed to win promotion via football's lottery system. However, play-offs it is after victory here was rendered null and void by Leeds' success at Elland Road, and they will play Huddersfield next, with the first leg at the Galpharm Stadium on Saturday.
Kenny Jackett, the Millwall manager, has been there recently, losing 1-0, on a Friday night three weeks ago but as he digested the disappointment of missing out on second place, he tried to look for a positive. He said: "Having the second leg at home is a slight advantage." Then he warned: "But Huddersfield have spent the most in this division in the last couple of years."
Jackett spent nothing on Steve Morison, who scored twice here, once from the penalty spot, and set up Millwall's third goal. He arrived last summer from non-League football with Stevenage Borough, but has 22 goals to his name and could be the key to Millwall finally breaking their play-off duck.
Swindon also knew they had to win to have any chance of a return to the second tier of English football for the first time in a decade. Now their hopes rest on beating Charlton in the play-offs, with the first leg at the County Ground on Friday night, although Danny Wilson, their manager, believes his side are underdogs. "Charlton have Premiership players, Championship players and play in front of 25,000."
If results had gone the Lions' way, they would have been back in the Championship for the first time in four years. It was six years ago that the club, managed by Dennis Wise, reached the FA Cup final, which they lost 3-0 against Manchester United.
The atmosphere here for a game that potentially had greater rewards, if not kudos, than winning a cup final, was reminiscent of that run to the Millennium Stadium. However, Swindon swiftly took the sting out of the game by taking the lead in the third minute. In their first attack, Danny Ward volleyed a weak clearance straight past David Forde into the bottom corner.
It took only 11, one-sided minutes for the hosts to draw level as Jonathan Douglas fouled Shaun Batt. Morison converted the penalty.
Millwall's second goal arrived in the cruellest fashion after 62 minutes, with Morison again involved. As he broke away down the flank, he put in a cross that Gordon Greer, the Swindon captain, could only scuff into his own net.
On these occasions, with everyone playing simultaneously, rumours of goals spread around grounds with indecent haste. Sometimes they are correct, sometimes not, but you wouldn't rely on the Millwall crowd to call an election result.
With 17 minutesleft, a cheer went up that suggested Leeds had been pegged back to 2-2 and within 10 seconds, Morison, who dropped down to the non-League from Northampton Town in 2004, had his second of the game with a dipping volley that took a slight deflection. As things turned out, there had been no Bristol Rovers equaliser and Millwall were still not a Championship team.
Swindon's automatic promotion hopes were all but gone but they still took the game to Millwall. However, needing two goals, only one came, when Billy Paynter deflected in Alan Sheehan's free-kick.
Yet this may just have been the start of the drama between these teams and not the end – they could face each other in the play-off final on 29 May. The dread starts now for Millwall fans.Reuse content