Five best Championship play-off finals

Luton and Coventry will fight it out for a place in the Premier League in the Championship play-off final at Wembley on Saturday after beating Sunderland and Middlesbrough respectively.

Championship play-off finals have been a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly since the first at the home of English football in 1990 when Swindon beat Sunderland, only to be demoted for illegal player payments.

We’re taking a look at the five best Championship play-off finals to have taken place at the old and new Wembleys in the last 35 years.

5th: Swansea 4 Reading 2 (2011)

Reading suffered Championship play-off final heartache for the second time in 16 years as Brendan Rodgers led Swansea into the Premier League.

Everything was going to plan when Scott Sinclair put the Swans in front from the penalty spot and added a close-range second before Stephen Dobbie swept in a third before the break.

But the Royals got back into the game with second-half headers from Noel Hunt and skipper Matt Mills – both from Jobi McAnuff corners – but Sinclair completed his hat-trick with a second spot-kick to seal a dramatic victory in one of the best Championship play-off finals.

4th: Bolton 4 Reading 3 (aet) (1995)

The Premiership, as it was then known, was only three years old when Bolton and Reading met in a thriller at the old Wembley.

Reading seemed to be heading to the top flight when Lee Nogan and Adrian Williams scored inside the first 12 minutes, but with a quarter of an hour to go Owen Coyle gave the Trotters hope by heading in John McGinlay’s cross.

Substitute Fabian de Freitas then converted Alan Thompson’s through-ball to take the game into extra time where Mixu Paatelainen put Bolton in front for the first time with a header.

De Freitas’ improvised finish while almost prostrate made it 4-2 although the scoring was not finished there as Jimmy Quinn struck in the dying seconds.

3rd: Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 (2010)

The Seasiders squeezed into the play-offs in sixth spot with a 1-1 draw against Bristol City and had Doncaster to thank for holding nearest rivals Swansea on the final day of the season.

After negotiating wins home and away against Nottingham Forest in the semi-finals, Ian Holloway’s side played out a dizzying opening 45 minutes at Wembley where all five goals came in the first half.

Ian Holloway’s Blackpool found themselves a goal down after eight minutes, Michael Chopra beating the offside trap and firing home, only for Charlie Adam to equalise with a sensational free-kick soon after.

Joe Ledley restored the Bluebirds’ lead, but Gary Taylor-Fletcher bravely nodded in from close range and Brett Ormerod completed the scoring by poking in what turned out to be the winner, although Chopra smacked the bar in an exciting if goalless second half.

2nd: Swindon 4 Leicester 3 (1993)

Just three years after their ultimately fruitless win against Sunderland which saw them initially demoted two divisions and then move back into Division Two upon appeal, the Robins were back at HQ for a second crack at the big time.

Everything was going swimmingly when Glenn Hoddle fired them in front close to half-time before Craig Maskell and Shaun Taylor extended their lead shortly after the break.

Remarkably, the Foxes drew level with three goals in 12 minutes from Julian Joachim, Steve Walsh and Steve Thompson to leave Swindon fans stunned.

Five minutes remained when referee David Elleray awarded a penalty after Steve White went down under contact from Kevin Poole and Colin Hill, with Paul Bodin converting from the spot to send Swindon into the top flight for the first time in their history, although they were relegated in the following season.

1st: Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 (1998)

The play-offs have rarely been a happy hunting ground for Sunderland supporters and their trip to Wembley in 1998 was no exception in this absolutely thrilling contest between two teams that finished third and fourth that season, separated by just two points.

Despite taking the lead three times through Kevin Phillips, Niall Quinn and Nicky Summerbee, the match went to penalties after Clive Mendonca completed a clinical hat-trick in extra time.

The first 13 spot-kicks were converted, but Sunderland-born Michael Gray produced a feeble effort which was easily saved by Sasa Ilic which sealed Charlton’s place in the top flight. A horrible way to end a classic for the ages.