Sunderland are delighted and probably a tad surprised to have extended their season but they will be looking to make the most of their unexpected opportunity when taking on Luton in the first leg of their Championship playoff semi-final.
The Black Cats went into the final day of the regular season in seventh place but a 3-0 victory at Preston was enough to elevate them above Millwall, who threw away a 3-1 advantage in a 4-3 loss at home to Blackburn.
Luton had a more relaxed Bank Holiday as they played out a 0-0 draw at home to mid-table Hull safe in the knowledge that they were assured of third place.
The Hatters have been on course for an extended season for several weeks and will be hoping to have learned from last season's playoff experience, when they succumbed to Huddersfield in the semi-finals.
Sunderland's successful 2021-22 League One playoff campaign was kick-started by a 1-0 home victory over Sheffield Wednesday and the Black Cats will be hoping for another Wearside win, priced up at 13/8, to boost their bid for back-to-back promotions.
Having such recent experience of a successful post-season must be a benefit for the Black Cats, who will have a good idea of what is to come.
But, while they went into the third-tier playoffs as one of the fancied teams, they approach the Championship post-season with plenty to prove.
Sunderland's 69-point total is the lowest of any second-tier playoff participant since Leicester extended their season with a 68-point tally in 2012-13.
However, they are on a nine-game unbeaten run (their longest of the season) and are scoring plenty of goals despite the long-term absence of star striker Ross Stewart.
The Wearsiders have netted 68 league goals, making them second-highest scorers among the playoff contenders, while Luton are lowest scorers with just 57.
The Hatters have relied a lot on their solid defence, which has underpinned an impressive away record.
Luton's away points tally (41) is second only to leaders Burnley and they will have their backers at 19/10 to register a first leg win.
However, only two of Luton’s 11 away wins have come against top-half teams and the Hatters may struggle to prevent their hosts from establishing an advantage before the return match in Bedfordshire.
Sunderland have momentum on their side, as well as positive recent memories of the playoffs following their success in League One last season.
With a packed out Stadium of Light behind them, the Black Cats could be the value bet at to secure a first-leg advantage.
Neither team will want to play themselves out of the tie in one match, so there is a strong chance of a low-scoring outcome.
Luton's defensive record (39 goals conceded) is the joint-second best in the division alongside promoted Sheffield United.
The Hatters have not conceded more than one goal in any of their last 12 fixtures and are usually very good at soaking up pressure.
All of Luton's last 10 away games have featured fewer than three goals, so there are obvious statistical grounds for backing under 2.5 goals at 8/13.
But the sequence of Luton's low-scoring away games contrasts sharply with a trend of high-scoring Sunderland home matches.
Five of the Black Cats' last seven home matches have generated at least three goals, although one of the exceptions in that run was a 1-1 draw with Luton in March when Adam Diallo levelled the scores with a controversial 86th-minute penalty.
Sunderland's boisterous crowd probably played a part in getting that controversial spot-kick decision and they could have a key role to play at the weekend.
Big games are often settled by class players and Manchester United loanee Amad Diallo looks a prime candidate to swing Saturday's match in Sunderland's favour.
Diallo arrived for his season-long stint on Wearside with very little experience and it took him some time to adjust to the pace and physical demands of Championship football.
However, he has delivered some magic moments and his final tally of 13 goals and three assists is an excellent effort for a player who was loaned out to SPL giants Rangers during the previous campaign and scored three goals in 10 league games.
Diallo can be deployed anywhere across the front line, making him a very difficult player to contain, and his threat to Luton is probably sufficient to justify a wager at 7/1 to score the opening goal.
Luton's offensive plan will revolve around getting the ball forward early and utilising the pace and power of physical front two Carlton Morris and Elijah Adebayo.
Morris finished the season with 20 league goals and will be feeling extremely confident having netted in four of his last five appearances.
Adebayo is an excellent foil for Morris but his finishing can be hit and miss and he has amassed just seven league goals.