OMAR Bogle scored an extra-time winner to send Grimsby Town into the National League promotion final at Wembley and leave them 90 minutes from a return to the Football League.
The Mariners, trailing Braintree Town 1-0 after the first leg at Blundell Park on Thursday, managed to complete the turnaround and secure a second successive appearance in the league’s showpiece game.
Town travelled to Essex knowing they had to win after Kenny Davis’ goal gave Braintree the edge in the first leg.
And although they dominated the game in warm conditions, the Mariners needed a penalty to finally get their crucial goal, with Padraig Amond scoring his 37th goal of the season from the spot on 75 minutes to level the tie.
Braintree went down to 10 men when defender Mark Phillips was sent off for a second bookable offence just before the end of normal time.
Town kept up their pressure after the match moved into extra time and they finally got their reward five minutes into the second period, when Bogle headed home in front of the travelling Mariners supporters.
Three changes were made to the Grimsby side that lost at Blundell Park on Thursday.
Gregor Robertson, Craig Clay and Jon-Paul Pittman all came into the starting XI, replacing Evan Horwood, Andy Monkhouse and Nathan Arnold as boss Paul Hurst opted for an attacking 4-3-3 formation.
James McKeown started in goal, with Richard Tait, Toto Nsiala, Josh Gowling and Robertson forming the defence.
Craig Disley, Clay and Jon Nolan were the midfielders, with Pittman joining fellow strikers Amond and Bogle in attack.
Arnold was named among the substitutes, alongside Shaun Pearson, Marcus Marshall, Danny East and Pat Hoban.
Braintree named the same starting XI that earned them a 1-0 advantage first time around, so they would again look to the likes of Simeon Akinola, Michael Cheek and captain Davis to cause problems for the Grimsby defence.
An early Alex Woodyard cross was comfortably taken by McKeown, who was defending the goal which the travelling Town fans were massed behind.
The hosts had another opportunity to attack when Robertson conceded a throw-in under pressure from Akinola but they were unable to build anything of note from it.
Town’s first attack came on eight minutes and saw Bogle cut in from the left before firing a 20-yard shot that was caught by home keeper Tom King.
Nsiala had to concede the first corner a minute later to get Sam Habergham’s low cross away from danger. The left-back’s delivery was eventually headed away by Gowling after the ball had bounced around on the edge of the penalty area.
Amond was sent through down the right on 12 minutes after Bogle had done well to win a header but the top scorer’s cross failed to find Pittman at the far post as the ball was caught by King.
Town’s next attack was started by Nolan with a good pass for Clay. It led to Bogle crossing but the ball was headed out for a corner by Matt Fry. From the flag, a short ball was played to Tait and his cross found Bogle but the striker could only head at King from eight yards.
Defender Mark Phillips gave the Mariners another corner after a good possession move and Nolan’s ball was flicked away by Habergham for another one on the opposite flank. This time, Davis headed clear.
Disley was shown the first yellow card of the game for a foul on Davis near the halfway line on 26 minutes. The resulting free kick was dealt with by the Town defence.
Another corner came for the men in black and white when right-back Sean Long headed out under no pressure but Nolan’s ball from the flag was caught by King.
Neither goalkeeper had been tested at the half-hour mark as Braintree looked to hold their one-goal lead in the tie and Town struggled to create clear-cut opportunities in front of goal.
A run by Clay on 36 minutes almost led to a chance for Amond, then Bogle, before the home defence recovered to half-clear as far as Nolan, who hammered an effort over the bar from 20 yards.
King was called into serious action for the first time two minutes later, when a Tait cross was headed into the ground by Amond and the keeper had to react quickly to push the bouncing ball away from danger.
Town were doing most of the attacking and Bogle worked himself an opening three minutes before the break, before dragging a low shot wide from 20 yards.
At the other end, the hosts had not asked many questions of the Grimsby defence but they had a chance as the game moved into two added minutes, with Davis making his way to the edge of the box before hitting a shot that was blocked by Disley.
Another Davis shot was blocked after good work by Akinola down the Braintree left and that turned out to be the last meaningful action of the first half.
After being ahead on most statistics at the end of the opening period, Town had failed to change the one that mattered and they were now left with 45 minutes to save their season.
No changes were made before the restart and the home side had the first chance of the second half, with Cheek firing a shot from outside the box that McKeown got down to stop.
Town then had an opportunity on 52 minutes through Amond, whose attempt from the edge of the box bobbled through for King to push it clear.
Amond won a corner in front of the Town fans two minutes later but the ball to the far post was headed behind by Disley.
A foul by Nsiala on Cheek gave Braintree an opportunity to get the ball into the Town box but when the free kick broke to Habergham, he could only lift the ball well over the bar and out of the ground from 20 yards.
Amond had a chance just after the hour but he couldn’t get enough power on his shot to cause any problems for the home defence.
Town kept the pressure up though and they won a corner soon afterwards, which led to Disley heading over the bar.
The first substitution of the game saw Arnold replace Pittman on 62 minutes in a move that saw the shape revert to 4-4-2 as Arnold slotted in on the left and Nolan moved to the right of midfield.
A penalty appeal came from the Town fans as Amond went down in a challenge with Phillips but referee Simon Bennett waved play on.
Robertson won another corner as the Mariners continued to ask the questions in attack and this time, they went close to levelling the tie but Disley’s far-post header dropped just wide of the target.
Sean Marks came on for Cheek as home boss Danny Cowley looked to freshen up his attack with 23 minutes left to play.
Dan Sparkes then followed him off the bench soon afterwards, with Akinola making way.
Nolan fizzed a first-time drive wide of King’s goal on 71 minutes, with the Mariners still looking for a way onto the scoreboard and back into the tie.
The next change saw Marshall replace Clay for Town and his first involvement was to win a corner on the right. From it, the referee spotted a shirt-pull by Phillips on Gowling and pointed straight to the penalty spot. AMOND stepped up and coolly sent King the wrong way to make it 1-0 on the day and 1-1 overall.
Suddenly, there was a different dynamic to the game, with Braintree now the team under pressure to get a goal as Town looked to finish the job.
Bogle headed over the bar from a right-wing cross on 79 minutes, then a Braintree free kick came at the other end but Sparkes sent it straight out of play for a goal kick.
Bogle then went inches away from winning the game for the Mariners when he cut in from the left before curling a shot towards the far post that King did brilliantly to get fingertips to and divert onto the post.
A foul on Arnold on the left earned Phillips a yellow card and Nolan’s free kick was headed back across goal by Gowling and the ball eventually fell for Arnold, whose shot was deflected over the bar for a corner.
Harry Cardwell came on for Paine with five minutes to go, with Braintree now coming under serious pressure.
But the hosts won a corner of their own soon afterwards, although the kick was headed clear of danger by Tait.
Disley’s header from a Marshall cross was blocked as Town kept knocking on the door, then a Mariners corner was cleared by Phillips as four minutes of added time was signalled.
Bogle had another chance to shoot from outside the box in the second of the extra minutes but his low shot lacked the power to beat King.
Then came a scare for the Mariners as a long kick forward by King bounced high and looked to be going over McKeown, although he recovered to keep it out.
Braintree were reduced to 10 men when Phillips was shown a second yellow card for bringing Nolan down on the left. The free kick was headed away for a corner by Fry and Nolan’s ball from the flag was headed just wide of the far post by Bogle.
That proved to be the last action of the game, meaning the tie finished level and extra time was needed to try and split the teams.
That started with Town winning a corner, which led to another after Nsiala’s header was deflected over the bar. The Mariners kept the pressure up as Arnold got to the byline and sent over a low cross but the home defence eventually recovered to clear their lines.
Marks did well to beat Disley to a Nolan cross seven minutes in, before Arnold forced King into a good save with a dipping effort from 20 yards five minutes later.
Grimsby’s pressure was almost constant now and Nolan’s corner led to an Nsiala header being deflected out for another one on the other side. Again, Nsiala got to it but his header went through to King.
That meant it remained level on aggregate at half-time in extra time, with 15 minutes now standing between the teams and a penalty shoot-out.
A home free kick was lofted into the box by Long but McKeown was able to push the ball away for a corner, which was cleared.
Marshall was fouled by Marks near the edge of the centre circle and from it, the Mariners finally forced their way ahead. Nolan’s high ball to the far post was missed by King and BOGLE was there to nod it past the keeper and into the net.
After the goal, Pearson was sent on in place of Nsiala as Town boss Paul Hurst made his final substitution.
There was still work to do for Town as Braintree won a corner with three minutes to go but McKeown got a strong punch to the ball from the flag to get it clear.
One added minute was signalled to be played at the end of the game and Town were able to see it out to complete the job and seal their place in the promotion final.
They will now face Forest Green Rovers at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, with the winner to be promoted to League Two