By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer
Carlos Tevez has cast a giant shadow over the fight for Premiership survival - so it was inevitable West Ham's gifted Argentine would provide the final twist in a dramatic tale.
Tevez's very presence in West Ham's side means the relegation battle could yet go into extra time after his goal at Manchester United capped a remarkable rush to safety by Alan Curbishley's side.
Wigan, Charlton, Fulham and relegated Sheffield United are threatening a court battle with the Premiership over their failure to dock the Hammers points after they were found guilty of offences relating to Tevez's transfer.
The fact that it was a strike from Tevez - plus a penalty from Wigan's Sheffield United old boy David Unsworth - which sent the Blades back into the Championship after only one season in the top flight only added a dash of irony to the last-day drama.
And it means the sense of injustice felt by those four clubs at the bottom will only increase once the tears and champagne have been forgotten.
Wigan started the day as favourites for the drop, but manager Paul Jewell is an expert at engineering a last-day survival and he won the war of nerves again.
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan salutes manager Paul Jewell
It may not have been pretty at Bramall Lane, but Jewell will not care as Wigan arrested a desperate slide in form to send the Blades down.
Wigan benefited from the fact their mission was clear. Only a win would do.
Sheffield United had more options to choose from and ended with the worst of all.
Jewell was at Bradford when a win against Liverpool on the Premiership's final day ensured survival in 2000 - and he clearly remembered his rallying speech as his Wigan side battled as if their lives, not just top-flight status, depended on it.
Wigan attacked to gain a half-time lead and survived a bombardment to retain it after the break in a frantic Bramall Lane atmosphere.
Jewell celebrated alongside chairman Dave Whelan at the final whistle but Wigan will need to do much work in the summer to ensure the club is not back on the same territory this time next season.
It was a bitter moment for Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock, whose club had looked safe for so long only to be dragged into what was ultimately a losing battle.
Warnock lashed out in several directions, taking aim at familiar targets such as referees, as well as managerial counterparts Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez for fielding weakened teams in recent weeks.
Why does it always rain on me? Warnock is on the way down
It was the result of understandable disappointment, although there was an acceptance that the Blades had been caught short by a lack of quality, not just the Premier League's perceived generosity towards West Ham.
In reality, however, Warnock should not be pointing fingers at Ferguson and Benitez when all his own team had to do was draw at home to struggling Wigan on the final day of the season to stay up.
Warnock declined to speak about his own future after the game, wisely given the acute sense of despair he would have been feeling.
But it may be that Warnock will regard it as too late in his career to stay at Sheffield United and attempt to plan another path back to the Premiership.
As for West Ham, a remarkable season ended in remarkable circumstances - and may yet have a last turn if their relegation rivals have their say and demand further action on the controversial Tevez and Javier Mascherano deals.
Make no mistake, West Ham would have gone down without Tevez and Sheffield United will lead the group of clubs demanding to examine the fine detail of his registration.
Tevez is triumphant after having the final word on relegation
But away from the red tape, Curbishley deserves huge credit for turning around what looked a hopeless situation.
He has had to cope with a relegation fight, a seemingly divided squad, injuries to his main signings and a welter of off-field problems to pull the Hammers around and keep them in the Premiership.
Inspired by the brilliance of Tevez, he has been able to piece together a superb end of season run, capped with a win at champions Manchester United to seal an unlikely escape.
West Ham will not be able to start the full-scale celebrations until the protests of the so-called "Gang of Four" have been heard.
But in a season of unpredictability at West Ham, it maybe was predictable that the mercurial Tevez would pen the last chapter.