Huddersfield boss David Wagner hailed his sides underdog spirit after a dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Sheffield Wednesday saw them reach Wembley.
Goalkeeper Danny Ward was the hero with spot-kick saves from Sam Hutchinson and Fernando Forestieri to earn victory after the two sides ended their two-legged Championship play-off semi-final locked together at 1-1.
Steven Fletcher had headed the Owls in front six minutes into the second half but Huddersfield responded and were level 22 minutes later when Tom Leeds turned a Collin Quaner cross into his own net.
Wagner said: “I’m happy and proud of what my players have done today and over the whole season.
“They were 1-0 down at Hillsborough and everybody knows how difficult this occasion can be, and they bounced back – you should never write this group off.
“Most pundits said before the season we would be in relegation trouble or maybe get relegated, and now we are only one step away from the Premier League.
“This shows what an achievement it is for this low-budget club – the small dog, the small terrier but they have character and belief and trust in what they do.”
Wagner said leading his side out at Wembley will mark the high point of his career to date – and joked that as a German he had little doubt about the outcome of the penalty shoot-out.
Wagner added: “We are very proud and even Germany know Wembley – maybe with the Maracana in Rio it is the highest place you can go to play a football match and now we are there.
“To reach the final in the time that I’m the manager it is the biggest achievement so far.
“I joked in the pre-match press conference that Germans are able to take penalty shoot-outs but to be fair we had a Welsh goalkeeper – this is the first step for the British.”
Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal said he would sit down with owner Dejphon Chansiri to discuss his future after the Owls’ dramatic defeat.
Speculation has been mounting over whether Carvalhal will stay at Hillsborough despite the club making progress under his reign.
Carvalhal said: “It is not the time to talk about my future – there are too many rumours around and things that don’t make any sense.
“It is clear that it (the season) is finished now and I will talk with the chairman. I have a fantastic relationship with the chairman and we will talk.”
Carvalhal admitted it was hard to take a second straight play-off loss after last season’s final defeat to Hull, but expressed pride in the performance of both his players and club.
He added: “We are very frustrated but we are very proud to once again have put Sheffield Wednesday in the first positions.
“One season is not easy to put the team in the play-offs and to do it twice is much more difficult because of expectations, and I think we did well this season again.
“Sheffield Wednesday have turned completely the way there were in the (previous) years and it is now a club everybody respects.”
Carvalhal thought his side looked set for a return to Wembley after Fletcher’s header put them in front during their most dominant spell of the game.
He said: “The game was completely under control but we made one mistake and they came inside and scored a goal.
“It is very hard when you fight in the Championship over a lot of games and you come to this moment and you lose on penalties.”