Middlesbrough sparked a celebration party that had been 128 years in the planning as they secured their first major trophy and a place in Europe with a 2-1 victory over Bolton in the Carling Cup final.
Boro's trophy cabinet has hardly been groaning under the weight of the 1976 Anglo-Scottish Cup or the winners' medals from the old Second Division in 1974. This success, however, was long overdue as Steve McClaren underlined his emerging credentials as a potential long-term successor to Sven-Goran Eriksson, becoming the first Englishman in eight years to win one of England's three main prizes.
Gareth Southgate had been in that Aston Villa team, coached by Brian Little, and it was entirely fitting that he lifted the trophy to a tumultuous ovation from the long-suffering Boro supporters.
With a first-half comedy of defensive errors, this final may have been more slapstick farce than stylish drama but it was hugely entertaining nonetheless.
Joseph-Desire Job gave Boro the lead after just two minutes and on-loan Boudewijn Zenden, who could yet finish the season as the only Chelsea player to win a medal, then converted a mis-hit penalty.
Bolton gamely battled back, with Mark Schwarzer's careless mistake enabling Kevin Davies, who sat in the stands for Southampton's FA Cup final defeat last season, to pull a goal back after 21 minutes.
However, while Per Frandsen struck the post in that frantic first half, McClaren's side, who were inspired by Southgate in defence and Gaizka Mendieta in midfield, steadied their resolve in a far more formulaic second half.
Bolton, who were denied a late penalty claim and are still without a major trophy of their own since 1958, lost out.
However, they had been on the back foot ever since the second minute as the pre-match fireworks continued on the pitch. Boro's initial thrust came after just two minutes in a sweeping counter-attack, with Mendieta inviting Zenden to attack down the left flank and his cross was swept home by Job from close range.
Bolton immediately responded, with Youri Djorkaeff's drive being tipped over the bar by Schwarzer. However, Sam Allardyce's side were left bemoaning their fate just three minutes later when Emerson Thome was penalised for pushing Job from behind as he attempted to turn inside the penalty area.
Bolton complained hard but Job had merely accepted the invitation to fall over and referee Mike Riley, who had been urged to make common-sense decisions by Allardyce, pointed to the spot. While Zenden slipped just before making contact - and actually made contact with the ball twice - Jussi Jaaskelainen was unable to keep it out with his trailing leg.
Bolton were left somewhat dazed by two such early blows, with Thome then miscuing a clearance from Juninho's cross over his own bar.
However, Schwarzer then handed them a route back into the game after just 21 minutes with a hapless mistake. Davies had virtually no support when he took aim, more in hope and desperation than anything else, from a tight angle 20 yards out. However, the ball bobbled just in front of Schwarzer and slipped through his arms to sneak inside the post.
There was a moment's silence before it dawned on those inside the stadium that the ball had not, in fact, struck the side-netting.
Bolton were instead back in contention and after Jay-Jay Okocha skimmed the bar with a free-kick, Schwarzer partially redeemed himself to deny Djorkaeff from close range after Frandsen had struck the post.
Boro's normally solid defence were in disarray as Djorkaeff had one effort deflected just wide and then forced Schwarzer into a fine one-handed save, while the Australian also dropped a cross.
Not that Bolton's rearguard was looking any more secure though, with their midfield being stretched by the attack-minded deployment of Kevin Nolan and Djorkaeff either side of Davies, with Okocha further back.
Bolton nevertheless still had to search for an equaliser and, with Nolan wasting a free header, Allardyce turned to Henrik Pedersen in place of Frandsen. His side still remained vulnerable to the counter-attack, with Job putting Mendieta through but the Spaniard lifted his lob onto the top of the roof.
Boro otherwise concentrated on holding onto their lead, with Southgate commanding his troops with stature, and they succeeded in their task. Mendieta and Michael Ricketts - against his former club - were denied the game's crowning glory, while there was a late scare as substitute Stelios Giannakopoulos' shot deflected wide off Ugo Ehiogu's shoulder.
Riley was nevertheless unmoved and McClaren's side were at last able to celebrate in style. It was about time too.
After the match Steve McClaren singled out captain Gareth Southgate as his hero after his side
had lifted the first major trophy in Middlesbrough's 128-year history.
'You need heroes in a cup final and we had 11, 12 or 13 out there and in the
second-half Mendieta was magnificent, but if there's one player I'd single out
it's Gareth Southgate,' said McClaren.
'He has been the talisman of this football club since I came. I made him my
first signing and told him the ambitions and we've had many ups and downs since
then but I'm delighted for him because he deserves it.
'You could see that in the reaction of the fans. He's a magnificent
McClaren admitted that he had missed the first goal after he had dashed to the
dressing room following the national anthem to change from his suit into his
'I've never thought suits were that lucky with me so I went to get my track
suit,' he said.
'We went 1-0 up and I couldn't believe it.
'I came down, had just sat in my seat when we went two up. I thought 'My God,
I should go back in the dressing room.'
'It was a perfect start and that was the defining moment in the game. We
don't give too many away and I thought we had a good chance of winning it.'
McClaren also saluted the work of chairman Steve Gibson who took him to
Teesside from Manchester United three years ago and has given him #30million to
build a team.
Gibson received a huge ovation from the travelling Boro fans and joined in the
celebrations on the lap of honour in the Millennium stadium.
'We wanted to bring a trophy to Middlesbrough after 128 years,' said
'That was my ambition when I sat down with the chairman. Personally it's
fantastic but the fans were magnificent.
'The chairman deserves an awful amount of credit for what he's done for this
'It's great the closeness he has with the fans because they are not cheering
for the players or the manager, they're actually cheering for the chairman,
that's how much he means.
'We'll all take personal delight in it but there's no prouder man today than
There was probably no man more relieved than Schwarzer whose howler when he
allowed Davies' speculative shot to bobble past him threatened Boro's cup of
'Everybody makes mistakes and it's just highlighted when it's in a cup
final,' said McClaren.
'There are not many mistakes Mark Schwarzer makes that you can remember.
'But he reacted very well after that and kept us in the game with two or
three magnificent saves when Bolton piled the pressure on us. We stood firm and
And while Bolton boss Sam Allardyce attacked referee Mike Riley for some
dubious decision-making, including the penalty he awarded when Emerson Thome was
ruled to have brought down Job and the resulting spot-kick which Allardyce
claimed had been a double hit, McClaren insisted: 'Cup finals are won by very
small margins such as referees decisions and mistakes and not everything went
for us but the majority of things did.
'I thought ours was a certain penalty. But the way we set our stall out we
deserved the luck and the breaks and today we got them.
'I have every sympathy with Sam and Bolton for the way they played was a
credit to the game and a magnificent advert for Premiership football.'
Gibson, meanwhile, admitted the triumph was reward for the net #65million he
has ploughed into the club, which was the reason for his uncharacteristic
'It's important for the club and the town,' said Gibson. 'There's not one
reason why you win a major trophy but it's because of all that we have been
doing for the last 10 years. It is a massive stepping stone for us.
'I was surprised with myself that I was enjoying it so much. I admit I
sometimes see people getting involved and think 'What a prat' but I enjoyed