Southend manager Kevin Bond could not hide his delight after keeping the Shrimpers in Sky Bet League One with a dramatic 2-1 win against Sunderland at Roots Hall.
Stephen Humphrys’ 87th-minute strike secured Southend the three points they needed to avoid relegation.
And Bond, who replaced Chris Powell in charge for the final six matches of the season, was delighted to have beaten the drop by goal difference.
“It’s really satisfying and I’m so pleased for everyone at the football club,” said the 61-year-old.
“They put their faith in me to make a difference and between us all, we’ve been able to do that.
“It was nail biting in the last 15 minutes – but overall we deserved the win.
“We played excellently in the first half and should have been more in front really. But when it was 1-1, I thought it might be gone.
“I thought we would find it difficult to come again but we took a chance with two up front. We got an opportunity after that and we took it.
“It can be satisfying keeping a team in the league as getting out of it at times.
“The support was properly fantastic but it has been ever since I’ve been here. I enjoy doing my job and I need to speak to the chairman now and see what his feelings are.”
The Shrimpers started brightly with Dru Yearwood wasting two excellent chances to score.
But Southend finally made the breakthrough with John White netting an overhead kick in the 43rd minute after Stephen McLaughlin’s right-wing corner had only been partially cleared.
Sunderland hit back after the break and made their pressure tell in the 75th minute with Chris Maguire scoring from the penalty spot after White had been adjudged to have brought down Charlie Wyke.
But Southend replied to score three minutes from time with Humphrys, who was playing with a protective mask due to a broken nose, fired home from close range to spark wild celebrations as the Shrimpers avoided relegation.
However, the winner also means Sunderland finished the season in fifth place and will go into the play-offs having suffered back-to-back defeats much to the frustration of boss Jack Ross.
“Today we were really poor, first half in particular,” said Ross.
“We hadn’t performed poorly with the exception of the latter part of the Fleetwood game and before that performances have been OK.
“But it was a reality check for some of us in terms of individually and as a team to the levels we need to be at, we have not dipped below them all that often this season but we dipped way below them today, beaten by a hungrier side.”