The distance between insanity and genius is said to be measured only by success.
A lot of things may have happened over the 46-game League One season, but everything was defined by what occurred in a mind-blowing final minute at Griffin Park on Saturday.
Doncaster Rovers had defended brilliantly in pursuit of the goalless draw that would have sealed promotion, yet found themselves on the brink of the play-offs after a 94th-minute penalty award at Brentford.
All Marcello Trotta had to do was hit his free shot into the net from 12 yards. Our fate was virtually sealed. For the first time in the run-in, and at the worst possible moment, the situation was out of our control. We just knew that he would score.
At the time of the award from referee Michael Oliver, Rovers fans were probably cursing the tactics of boss Brian Flynn, who quite understandably opted for a defensive outlook for the game. Brentford supporters were ready to celebrate another masterclass from Uwe Rosler, who had seen his side win games late on at home all season.
Yet 20-year-old Trotta, who had defied manager Rosler’s instructions to take the spot-kick, blasted his shot against the bar. As Brentford held their collective heads in hands, Donny got the sucker-punch goal on the break that they had been looking for from the first minute.
Now the tables were turned; Flynn was hailed the managerial genius and Rosler left picking up the pieces after a moment of insanity. There were no end of experienced Brentford players on the pitch who could have taken that penalty. While it is hard to knock a youngster’s bravery – there’s no way I’d have wanted to take that penalty – it was naivety in the extreme.
The reality of course, is that both managers had prepared their teams the best they could, both got their tactics pretty much spot on and both have both done great jobs this season. But the outcome always defines the process in football.
So it was Flynn celebrating another piece of final-day history, just as he did all those years ago at Swansea City. Rosler – ironically, a clinical finisher in his time – was interviewed with a look that said more than his speech. A picture paints a thousand words.
We will probably never know why Billy Paynter was on the right wing at that precise moment in time but he collected a clearance, kept his head, and unselfishly played in James Coppinger. After two steady touches from our longest serving player, Rovers were returning to the Championship as champions.
From the absolute depths of despair to the highest of highs within a minute. Who says that fairy tales no longer happen in football?
But these things aren’t suppose to happen to us, right? They are saved for teams like Arsenal, players like Michael Thomas at grounds like Anfield. This time it was Doncaster Rovers grabbing the headlines on national radio, with comparisons made to that moment at Liverpool.
There was more than a twist of fate about the final moments of the match. Firstly, Neil Sullivan, more than twice Trotta’s age at 43 years young, was the man charged with keeping the penalty out.
Then Coppinger, who is pictured with hands on hips in one photo as Trotta hit the shot that should have killed our dreams, got the winning goal. Our only two survivors in the matchday 18 that won promotion at Wembley were the pivotal figures in those dying seconds.
Sullivan may not have touched the ball in that instance but he will always be remembered for that moment. Coppinger, like Francis Tierney and James Hayter, will be an even bigger Doncaster legend for scoring such an important goal.
While the scenes of happy faces in green shirts was scarcely believable, we knew it was true because you just couldn’t have made it up. If Steven Spielberg had been asked to commission the script for this game, he would never have got to that scenario. Not in a million years.
I doubt we will see anything quite like this again in any game, let alone involving our heroes. And there were Doncaster heroes aplenty, let me tell you. From captain fantastic Rob Jones (the only person who knew Trotta would miss), to assist machine David Cotterill; from the wily Flynn, to the chairman John Ryan, who has led the club during this amazing last few years.
From Sully to Copps; from everyone who has played a part in this instant return to the Championship. This could have been the day where Dean Saunders finished the work he started and put a promotion on his CV. But in another amazing twist, his Wolverhampton Wanderers side looks like they will be trading places with us.
Flynn took over the reins astutely and deserves a chance to lead us into the Championship after delivering the league title. Some are already worrying about what the future will hold in the step up but if ever there was a lesson about enjoying the very present, then this was surely it.