Morecambe boss Derek Adams claimed his side should have been League Two champions after a 2-0 win at Walsall kept their automatic promotion hopes alive heading into the final day.
The Shrimps have never played in the third tier but Cole Stockton pounced on Dan Scarr’s error on the stroke of half-time and a second-half Yann Songo’o header secured a play-off position at worst.
Morecambe, in fourth, could also go up automatically if they beat Bradford and either second-placed Cambridge lose at home to Grimsby or Bolton, in third, fail to win at Crawley.
It is a huge turnaround for a club that has finished in the Football League’s bottom seven for each of the past five seasons.
Adams said: “It was a fantastic performance. We scored two goals and came away with a clean sheet despite being without seven players.
“We’ve already set the club’s highest league points total at 75 and we’re already in the play-offs but now we’ve got the chance to finish second or third.
“For that to happen is testament to the players, I love them to bits, I love their attitude and I’m just delighted to be in this position.
“We felt hard done by last week against Bolton when, like against other top teams this season – Cambridge, Tranmere, Newport twice – we went down to 10 players.
“We probably should have won the league and we deserve to have won the league this year with how well we’ve played.
“We’ve done our side of the business today – who knows what happens next week? We’ve got to beat Bradford at home to give ourselves that opportunity for automatic promotion.”
Walsall, meanwhile, can finish no higher than 17th, which will be their worst season in a century and caretaker boss Brian Dutton’s future is unclear.
“I think that was a fixture that has encapsulated my tenure at Walsall,” he said.
“Quite pretty between both boxes, some good stuff, some nice possession but individual errors defensively and offensively.
“The game is about being good in both boxes and we weren’t – we were poor defensively and blunt offensively.
“It gives the club the opportunity to bottom out and understand what mistakes have been made for us to end up in this position because Walsall fans deserve a lot better than what’s been served up.
“Hopefully it’s a bit of a reset for everybody to learn from it and move on accordingly with some positive actions to get Walsall back to where it belongs.
“It’s no good sweeping things under the carpet and hoping we can rectify them, it’s about understanding the mistakes and learning from them.
“We must treat this disappointment as a real positive reflection period.”