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Monday, May 25, 1998 Published at 22:07 GMT 23:07 UK

Sport: Football

Charlton clinch nail-biter

Charlton are in the Premiership for the first time

Charlton have been promoted to the Premiership, beating Sunderland 7-6 on penalties at the end of an eight-goal thriller at Wembley.

Michael Gray was the north-eastern side's villain, taking a weak spot-kick which was an easy save for the Charlton goalkeeper Sasa Ilic after all previous penalties had been scored.

[ image: Clive Mendonca was a constant threat]
Clive Mendonca was a constant threat
Charlton striker Clive Mendonca, a Sunderland fan as a boy, scored the first hat-trick in a play-off final to earn his side a draw, after they went behind three times.

Both sides started nervously with Charlton perhaps having the better of the early exchanges. Defensively they looked strong, and their midfield game prevented Sunderland stringing passes together.

The Game: Paul Newman reports from Wembley
Sunderland gradually got into the game, creating the first scoring opportunities of the match, the first in the 14th minute courtesy of over confidence by Ilic. Then their captain Kevin Ball headed over in the 20th minute, unmarked as he met a corner from Nicky Summerbee.

[ image: Mendonca scored the first ever wembley play-off final hat-trick]
Mendonca scored the first ever wembley play-off final hat-trick
But Charlton took the lead in the 23rd minute thanks to a brilliant goal from Clive Mendonca.

Mark Bright flicked a right wing throw-in to Mendonca. He neatly controlled it, sold Jody Craddock an expert dummy, leaving him with only Lionel Perez to beat, which he did with style.

Sunderland were stung into an immediate response and within seconds Ball and Niall Quinn came close. Charlton were also looking dangerous. Gray doing enough to put Mark Bright off as he rose at the far post to meet a perfect cross from Neil Heaney.

Sunderland finished the half the stronger of the two teams with two flowing moves. First Lee Clark fired over and then he created a superb chance for Summerbee, but Eddie Youds just got a toe in as the Sunderland winger prepared to shoot.

Fans' reactions: Rebecca Jones reports from Wembley
At half-time, Sunderland replaced their young defender Darren Holloway with Chris Makin, and manager Peter Reid's team talk had the desired effect. Within five minutes Quinn had put them level.

[ image: Niall Quinn got two goals]
Niall Quinn got two goals
Summerbee drilled a corner in from the right, Quinn lost Youds for the first time in the match and was able to head the ball low through the gap between Mark Bowen and the near post.

The goal raised the tempo of the match even higher, and Charlton's inspirational captain Mark Kinsella immediately came close to restoring their lead through a well worked free-kick.

But Sunderland were now at the top of their game, and Quinn missed a glorious chance to put them 2-1 up seconds before Kevin Phillips scored.

[ image: Kevin Phillips put Sunderland in front, and broke Brian Clough's scoring record]
Kevin Phillips put Sunderland in front, and broke Brian Clough's scoring record
Charlton fans were still catching their breath after Quinn had blazed over the bar, when Clark lobbed the ball over the defence as Phillips ran through. He poked the ball past Ilic for perhaps the most important goal he had ever scored.

It not only put Sunderland in prime position for promotion, but as his 35th goal of the season, it broke Sunderland's previous one-season scoring record set by Brian Clough.

Charlton brought on Steve Jones for Neil Heaney just after Kinsella had tested Perez from distance, and Jones played a big part in Charlton's equaliser.

He won the ball in midfield, it broke for Rufus, who lobbed it forwards for Mendonca. He took just two touches to take it past the Sunderland defence before driving it past Perez.

Alan Curbishley was immediately on his feet urging his team forward, but within seconds Sunderland were back in front.

Clark on the right swung in a deep cross which found Quinn backing away from his marker. The big Irishman controlled the ball perfectly on his chest and fired past Ilic from an acute angle.

Sunderland replaced Phillips with Daniel Dichio, who was guilty of a glaring miss seconds later, when he elected to try to volley a Summerbee cross when a diving header would have been a better option.

[ image: Mendonca's second goal was outstanding]
Mendonca's second goal was outstanding
But Mendonca was easily the most dangerous player on the pitch, and it took last ditch defensive work by Sunderland to twice deny him his hat-trick.

Sunderland were living dangerously and Perez was first saviour, and then villain as Charlton made it 3-3.

First he made an instinctive save as a Bowen fired in a free-kick. Then he went for the corner, but with no chance of making it, and Richard Rufus had a free header to score his first goal for the club.

The game went to extra-time and Sunderland were looking marginally the more lively of two tired teams. With eight minutes of the extra period gone Summerbee put them 4-3 up, smashing a cushioned lay-off from Quinn past Ilic after a patient build up.

Seconds later Quinn could have put the result beyond doubt, but six yards out he failed to connect with a glorious cross from Allan Johnston on the left wing.

But the game was not over and Mendonca scored his hat-trick with a clinical finish to make it 4-4 right at the death of the first period.

Jones crossed low and hard from the right but the ball was behind Mendonca. That was no problem as in one fluid movement he controlled it and fired beyond Perez.

Both teams were by now exhausted, and Sunderland's Alex Rae and Craddock missed good chances as penalties loomed.

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