Brentford booked their place in the npower League One Play-Off Final with a penalty shoot-out win over Swindon Town after a rollercoaster afternoon at Griffin Park.
The Bees held a 2-0 lead just before half time and then a 3-1 lead just after but Swindon pulled it level with a stoppage time goal and took the game to extra time.
The visitors had a man sent off in extra time and held on bravely for a penalty shoot-out but Brentford won out.
Simon Moore saved Miles Storey’s penalty to give The Bees the advantage in the shoot-out.
Adam Forshaw converted Brentford’s fifth to complete a perfect set of penalties and send The Bees to Wembley.
To try and tell the story of an afternoon with six goals, a red card, a fantastic Brentford performance and a superb Swindon comeback would require a book rather than a few hundreds words.
Swindon could have been ahead inside 70 seconds when Massimo Luongo delivered a corner, Joe Devera headed it back and Aden Flint turned it towards goal but Moore did superbly to turn it over.
That was however, just about the only time the visitors could have claimed to have the upper hand before the end of the 90 minutes.
Brentford, with an extra man in midfield and Marcello Trotta doing the work of two men up front, completely dominated the first 30 minutes and much of the rest of the match.
Swindon had no answer to the intensity of Brentford’s play, nor the swiftness of passing and movement.
It took a while for Brentford’s superiority to tell in terms of chances, and then on the score sheet, but there was no doubt which team was better from very early on.
Harry Forrester headed a Tom Adeyemi cross over as the chances started to come and then had a shot deflect wide.
Swindon almost snatched the lead when they broke from a Brentford corner and Luongo’s pass nearly released Andy Williams – the striker, Moore and Toumani Diagouraga collided on the edge of the penalty area but Brentford’s goalkeeper played the ball rather than the man and the danger was cleared.
Brentford’s clearance almost turned in to a goal as Shaleum Logan released Clayton Donaldson in behind, the striker beat the onrushing Wes Foderingham to the ball and was then clattered by the Swindon stopper, the ball rolled wide and referee Nigel Miller awarded a goal kick rather than penalising the goalkeeper.
The Bees did get their noses in front midway through the half.
Forrester delivered a corner from the left and it flicked off Swindon striker Adam Rooney and in to the far corner.
The Bees deserved the lead at that point and set about trying to kill the game off in the first half.
A Trotta shot deflected wide after good work from Jake Bidwell and Forrester before Foderingham denied Forrester after a move involving Trotta, Adeyemi and Forshaw.
Donaldson headed an Adeyemi cross over and Trotta hit the outside of the post after a nice turn as Brentford ran riot.
Swindon had to do something and pulled Williams to the right side to form a five man midfield and try and match The Bees up.
Williams could have reduced the arrears when he turned in the box but he lashed over from 12 yards and Brentford doubled their lead moments later.
Trotta got in behind Swindon on the right side after a ricochet in midfield and fed the ball back inside, Donaldson turned a drilled it low in to the bottom corner from 18 yards.
Foderingham made a superb save from a Donaldson header as Brentford could have wrapped it up before the break but the home side contributed to the goal that gave Swindon a lifeline.
Adeyemi was robbed in midfield, Tony Craig fired his attempt to clear against Diagouraga and Swindon broke – the ball was worked to Gary Roberts on the right, his cut back found Adam Rooney and the striker made amends for his own goal by firing home.
Brentford almost restored their two-goal lead before half time when Forrester met a Donaldson cross on the volley and forced Foderingham to go full stretch to his left and palm the ball away.
The goal minutes before the break may have given the visitors a boost and renewed energy for the second period, but there was no time to test the theory as Brentford had restored their two-goal cushion within 70 seconds of the restart.
Roberts was credited with his second assist of the afternoon as his suicidal ball across midfield went straight to Donaldson, the striker raced away from the Swindon defence and lifted his 24th goal of the season over Foderingham to send Griffin Park in to raptures.
But Swindon weren’t done – Luongo had a shot blocked and Moore saved from Raffaele De Vita as they tried to respond.
And they got one back with just over half an hour remaining.
Luongo delivered a corner from the left, Flint’s header was blocked but Devera followed up to lash in to the roof of the net and give them hope again.
Swindon threw more bodied forward to try and salvage the tie and it became a fantastic spectacle, if a bit hard to watch for those of a nervous disposition.
Foderingham saved a Donaldson header and Forshaw curled a shot wide while, at the other end, James Collins swivelled and fired inches past the post and Moore gathered a Flint header.
Jonathan Douglas got his body in the way of a fierce Alan McCormack shot while Harlee Dean lashed over at the other end.
Swindon were lifting balls in to Brentford’s penalty area in the dying stages but The Bees largely held firm – Moore had to gather a Storey header but had little else to do as the minutes ticked down.
Sam Saunders came within a whisker of sealing it completely with a curling shot that flicked away off the crossbar but as the game entered five minutes of stoppage time, there was still only one goal in it.
Donaldson had a low shot saved inside the added five but Swindon piled on the pressure.
Logan had to clear off the line from Storey after Devera had headed a Roberts corner down and from the next delivery, it was all square.
Roberts again put the ball in to the danger area and Flint rose highest to power a 95th minute equaliser home for the visitors.
Swindon had the momentum going in to the added 30 minutes but Brentford found added resolve.
Saunders had a free kick deflect wide before good work from Donaldson forced Nathan Byrne to handle and deny him a path to goal.
The full back had been booked in the first half and referee Nigel Miller had no choice but to produce a second yellow card and send him off.
Diagouraga blazed over for The Bees and De Vita volleyed wide for Swindon but neither team could break the deadlock in the first period of extra time.
Brentford pressed throughout the second period of extra time but couldn’t find a way through.
The closest they came was when Saunders and Paul Hayes combined to release Donaldson, the striker fired low and true but Foderingham got a hand to it and kept it out.
Saunders shot wide for The Bees and Craig missed the target with an effort on the turn before Foderingham got down well to keep out a low Donaldson shot.
Ward made a vital interception to stop Douglas scoring and Foderingham saved from Logan but Brentford couldn’t find a winner and the tie went to penalties.
Saunders, Hayes and Dean converted for The Bees, following in penalties from Devera, Flint and Collins before Moore went down to his left to deny Storey.
Craig slotted home with aplomb for The Bees and Roberts followed him in to give Forshaw his moment.
He lashed his penalty inches under the crossbar to send The Bees to Wembley.
They will now play Yeovil Town on Sunday May 19 for a place in the npower Championship and if the past few weeks are anything to go by, it will be another afternoon to remember.
Brentford: Moore; Logan, Dean, Craig, Bidwell; Diagouraga, Adeyemi (sub Douglas 56 mins); Donaldson, Forshaw, Forrester (sub Saunders 70 mins); Trotta (sub Hayes 82 mins)
Subs (not used): Gounet, Hodson, O’Connor, Wright-Phillips
Bookings: Diagouraga (80 mins) (seventh of season), Bidwell (96 mins) (fifth of season), Donaldson (115 mins) (seventh of season)
Swindon Town: Foderingham; Devera, Flint, Ward, Byrne; Ferry (sub Storey 78 mins), McCormack, Luongo, Roberts; Williams (sub Collins 50 mins), A. Rooney (sub De Vita 50 mins)
Subs (not used): Bedwell, Navarro, L. Rooney, Miller
Bookings: McCormack (42 mins), Flint (90 mins), Roberts (95 mins), Luongo (98 mins), Ward (117 mins)
Sent Off: Byrne (101 mins) (second bookable offence)
Attendance: 9,109 (1,805 away fans)
By Chris Wickham