Oxford United 2
Leyton Orient 3
(League Two)

ON an emotionally charged afternoon Orient booked their place in League One next season as they grabbed their first automatic promotion in 36 years in dramatic fashion, while also sending Oxford United spiralling out of the Football League in the process, writes Peter King.

Roared on by 4,600 travelling fans at the Kassam Stadium it seemed as if the east Londoners had blown their chance on full time and would be heading for the play-offs with the game locked at 2-2 and promotion rivals Grimsby winning 1-0 at home to Northampton.

But in a thrilling climax that could not have been better scripted by a Hollywood film director, news filtered through that the Cobblers had equalised in the dying moments to send the O's faithful into delirium. And in one of those moments in sport when time seems to stand still, Orient continued to surge forward and ex-U's striker Lee Steele fired home a match winner that would firmly condemn his former employers.

Delighted O's manager Martin Ling said: "There were twists and turns all the way through because at one stage I really thought I would have to try and lift the players again for the play-offs. But everything came right in a flash, although when the news filtered through that Northampton had scored I was trying to wave my players back to defend because we had so many forward at that stage looking for a winner.

"Things just seemed to stand still for an age but the next minute Lee Steele was putting the ball in the back of the net.

"To say it was a rollercoaster of a game would be the understatement of the year."

Orient really should have had the match wrapped up in the opening stages, but as anyone who has come to love this old club knows, they don't like to do things easily down at Brisbane Road.

So with Joe Keith having an excellent effort saved by Billy Turley and Lee Steele rattling a post with a fierce drive, it was certainly against the run of play when the hosts opened the scoring on 14 minutes, after Eric Sabin converted Andy Burgess' free kick.

The O's hit back within three minutes after Turley bundled in Craig Easton's header following a measured cross from Wayne Corden.

The visitors continued to look dangerous with their flowing passing game, although it wasn't until the 63rd minute that they took the lead via a delicious chip from Gary Alexander.

Once again the match was quickly all square as within two minutes Chris Willmott bundled home after Glyn Garner had somehow kept out an effort from Chris Hargreaves.

With Willmott red carded on 85 minutes following an elbow on John Mackie, spaces opened up at the other end but with subs Shane Tudor and Jabo Ibehre just failing to find the back of the net automatic promotion seemed a lost caused.

But deep into the five minutes of extra time, Alexander broke down the left and crossed to the unmarked Steele who, only being accompanied by a string of team mates, was able to pick his spot and really get the promotion party started.