- Crystal Palace beat Watford 1-0 after extra-time to earn promotion to the Premier League
- Kevin Phillips scores from the penalty spot to atone for three previous playoff failures
- Palace will be $180 million richer even if they survive just one season in the Premier League
Two days after staging the biggest club game on the planet, Wembley Stadium hosted the richest match in world football - with Crystal Palace taking spoils worth $180 million as they gained promotion to the English Premier League.
Less than 48 hours after Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 to lift the European Champions League, Crystal Palace beat Watford 1-0 after extra-time to earn promotion from the Championship, the division immediately below the Premier League.
The winning goal in front of a packed crowd containing honorary Watford chairman Elton John and outgoing Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho came from Kevin Phillips, whose professional career started at Watford and who had lost his three previous playoff finals.
He was given the chance after 105 minutes from the penalty spot and despite the intense pressure of securing riches galore for his club on a sweltering day at Wembley, a man who turns 40 in July was coolness personified as he fired high into the net.
The kick was effectively worth $180 million - with half of that coming from television revenue and another $90m from the parachute payments that go to any team that drops out of the Premier League.
With the team that finishes bottom of the Premier League earning a minimum of $1.1m in addition to the extra revenue brought in from gate receipts, Palace's owners can plan for the future with real optimism even if the club is relegated after just one season in the top flight.
The club hierarchy had craved promotion so that funds could be used to redevelop their Selhurst Park stadium.
"We are in the Premier League - so God help us," laughed winning coach Ian Holloway. "It is absolutely massive to be back in the Premier League. They have plans to do up the ground and I am so happy for everyone connected with the club."
Relegation has befallen Palace every time they have gained promotion to the Premier League, while only nine of the 21 playoff winners have managed to stay in the division the following season, so Holloway is likely to have a busy summer trying to improve his squad.
He already knows that he must do without winger Wilfried Zaha, who was the outstanding player on the pitch and whose trickery was finally rewarded when he won the penalty at the end of the first period of extra-time.
Zaha, the 20-year-old who earned his first England call-up last November, agreed to join English champions Manchester United in January, so becoming the last signing of outgoing manager Alex Ferguson.
He was bought for $24 million and instantly loaned back to the club whose academy he joined at the age of 10, six years after moving to London from his native Ivory Coast.
"I'm speechless - this is a dream come true," Zaha told Sky Sports television after the game. "This is all I wanted, leaving Palace knowing they are in the Premier League. I just told myself to give it all I can - 100%, 200%.
"I've been at the club so long. All I want to do is help out the team, I'm so glad we made it to the Premier League."
Monday's success caps a remarkable turnaround for Palace.
Three years ago, fans were fearing for their favorites' future as they protested outside a bank as a club founded in 1905 was threatened with extinction.
Docked 10 points by the Football League for going into administration, Palace not only escaped liquidation but also managed to avoid relegation to the third tier of English football on the last day of the 2009-2010 season.
Palace fans would have been nervous again in the last minute of extra-time as Watford's Fernando Forestieri curled an effort towards the far corner only for Joel Ward to clear off the line.
The club joins Cardiff and Hull in winning promotion to the Premier League from the Championship, with Queens Park Rangers, Reading and Wigan Athletic heading in the opposite direction.
Gianfranco Zola's Watford, who were seeking a return to the top flight for the first time in six years, ultimately paid the price for slipping up on the final day of the season, losing at home to Leeds United when victory would have earned promotion.
The club has been criticized this season for bringing in a number of players on loan from sister clubs Udinese (Italy) and Granada (Spain), which are also owned by the Pozzo family.
Despite the last 10 competitive meetings between Watford and Palace producing 38 goals, Monday's game at Wembley ended goalless after 90 minutes - as the massive expectation seemed to weigh upon both team's players.
Nonetheless, all associated with Crystal Palace can now look forward to Wednesday 19 June with great excitement as that is when the 2013-14 Premier League fixtures are set to be released.