Comment on Palace in Wonderland from pull-out supplement
CRYSTAL Palace's victory over Watford was epitomised by the sight of Damien Delaney after the game.
The big Irish centre-back was overcome by emotion and needed comforting by his teammates in the tunnel.
He quickly recovered and took centre stage in the celebrations, which inevitably went on long into the night, both around Wembley and back in Croydon.
But the tension of such an occasion is hard to measure until it arrives. Despite the boisterous build-up in London before the game and in the stadium, there were genuine nerves as Palace missed a host of chances.
The relief, then, when the evergreen Kevin Phillips stepped up to bury a blatant penalty, was palpable.
A play-off final is not a game for losers, as was evidenced by the Watford fans who traipsed their way back down Wembley Way.
But for Palace, promotion beckons. And with it comes a chance for owners CPFC2010 to do what their predecessors have failed to do – keep Palace in the Premier League.
This is not a task anyone is taking lightly or even necessarily expects, but it seems that the club is the most stable it has been for years.
With the estimated £120 million coming into the club, there is a chance to build something similar to what has been seen at Swansea City.
The FA Cup victory by a Wigan side who will now pass Palace on the way up to the Premier League, will also give hope that a fat chequebook is not the only route to silverware.
There will be no bold claims that Palace will definitely stay up.
In fact, quite the opposite, Ian Holloway said this week that his side are on a "hiding to nothing".
Is this the sentiment of a manager who wants to keep expectations in check, or the reality of life in the Premier League where the gap between top and bottom is far greater than the 20 places set out in the league table?
It is a cliché that has been rolled out countless times, but this will be an adventure for a side currently put together for just a few million pounds.
And we will be there, glad all over, every step of the way.