Wanderers will be in the League One play-offs after a performance full of class and character earned them the win that guarantees Ian Evatt’s men a top-six finish.
The Whites did everything right in overcoming Fleetwood with a goal in each half as an Elias Kachunga effort – given as an own-goal off Morecambe defender Promise Omochere – and Kyle Dempsey’s close-range against his former club secured a 14th home win of a memorable campaign.
And the news then filtered through that Peterborough had been held at home by Bristol Rovers to make the gap unbridgeable and spark great scenes of celebrations among the Whites’ players and fans.
With one game to go, which will determine whether Wanderers finish fifth or sixth and who they will face in the play-offs, it’s mission accomplished for a team that now has the chance to add promotion to their Papa Johns Trophy success.
Buckle up for the ride!
With Wanderers needing to bounce back from a first loss in eight games in mid-week, Evatt freshened things up with four changes to his starting line-up.
And it was one of the returning faces that made the difference early on as the Whites got the lead they so badly wanted.
Kachunga had been instrumental in the build-up that led to Wanderers’ first corner of the game and then when Randell Williams delivered the set-piece, Kachunga claimed the vital touch at the near post that steered the ball into the back of the net via Town defender Omochere.
Eoin Toal’s return for the first time since being injured at Wembley at the start of the month was also key as the Northern Irishman helped bring an extra measure of calm and control at the other end.
And despite moments of anxiety when Fleetwood put the ball into the Wanderers’ penalty area, it was the hosts who almost doubled their lead after half an hour.
On a rain-soaked surface following monsoon-like conditions after kick-off, Wanderers pinched possession on the edge of the Town box and Conor Bradley let fly with an effort palmed out by former Bolton youngster Jay Lynch in the Fleetwood goal.
Wanderers continued to hunt a possible second goal before the break as Randell Williams fizzed a cross across the face of goal after Kachunga had got in behind the visitors’ defence before Jack Marriott mustered Town’s first effort on target with skidding shot held by James Trafford.
And then in stoppage time Wanderers went close again as Bradley did superbly to release Gethin Jones, whose driven cross was met by Dion Charles at the near post for a difficult heading chance he wasn’t able to direct goalwards.
Inevitably there was still tension in the air and Wanderers had to soak up some early pressure after the re-start before Town were then reduced to 10 men when Jayden Stockley was sent off for an off-the-ball incident seemingly spotted by the fourth official.
Wanderers then went back on the offensive and after Randell Williams had seen a free-kick just kept out at his near post by Lynch, Bradley had a shot blocked in in a goalmouth melee as the Whites piled on the pressure.
All the attacking was coming from Evatt’s men as they looked for the breathing space of a second goal and with 12 minutes to go it came.
Moving the ball around had run Town off their feet and when the play was spread wide again, Randell Williams crossed hard and low and Dempsey picked up the pieces to drive home his first goal since heading Wanderers on their way to Papa Johns Trophy glory at Wembley.
Dempsey was everywhere and another storming run down the right wing almost led to a third goal as the game entered its final 10 minutes.
Jones also headed just wide from a corner but Wanderers had done what they needed to from a top-class performance as Trafford stayed big to make an excellent block from Carlos Mendes Gomes to avoid any anxiety in stoppage time.
Wanderers comfortably negotiated the six added minutes and with confirmation of the play-off place filtering through, the lap of appreciation at the end was one of celebration – albeit with a job still to do.
Wanderers: Trafford; Jones, Toal, Johnston; Bradley, MJ Williams (Morley 70), Dempsey, R Williams; Lee (Thomason 70); Charles (Adeboyejo 79), Kachunga (Nlundulu 87). Substitutes: John, Sheehan, Jerome.
Booked: Lee, Morley
Fleetwood Town: Lynch; Rooney, Nsiala, Wiredu, Johnston; Omochere, Vela, Warrington (White 85), Patterson (Mendes Gomes 64); Stockley, Marriott (Hayes 85). Substitutes: McMullen, Quitirna, Holgate, White, Johnson.
Booked: Vela, Warrington, Marriott
Sent off: Stockley
Referee: Benjamin Speedie
Attendance: 20,531 (581)