Inspirational Tranmere Rovers will play League One football next season after a dramatic extra time header from Connor Jennings sealed promotion against Newport County in the League Two play-off final at Wembley Stadium.

The game appeared to be destined to go to penalty kicks, after Newport – who had captain Mark O’Brien sent off in the 90th minute – kept the contest goalless throughout extra time.

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But with only 60 seconds left on the clock, Jennings headed home the only goal of the game, sealing back-to-back promotions against all the odds.

Micky Mellon named an unchanged side from the one that started both legs of the semi-final against Forest Green Rovers, with James Norwood continuing to operate as a lone striker in front of a five-man midfield.

The Exiles had an early chance when Jamille Matt got his head on a long throw into the box, but he could only nod it wide.

Connor Jennings attempted to repeat his 30-yard wonder strike of three years ago in the fifth minute, but his deflected effort was comfortably held by Joe Day.

The County ‘keeper then held a weaker effort from Ollie Banks before Joss Labadie skewed one well wide at the other end.

Matt couldn’t reach a flicked on free kick at the far post that would surely have given Newport the lead, but it was Rovers who were controlling the early possession, trying to feed full back Jake Caprice down the right.

When the ball broke for Jennings on the edge of the box, he could only curl it well over the bar, as Tranmere continued to push forward.

When County’s Scott Bennett ballooned one into the Tranmere fans behind Scott Davies’ goal, he rounded off an opening quarter of an hour of sub-standard quality.

25 minutes in, a cross from Caprice found Norwood in the box, who saw his sweet right-foot volley instinctively repelled by Day. Had it been a yard either side of him, it would have been in the back of the net.

The Exiles continued to offer a threat from set pieces, with captain Mark O’Brien nodding a corner wide just past the half hour mark.

Day was called into action again eight minutes before the break when he held a low drive from David Perkins.

Norwood headed a cross from Jay Harris over the bar just before half time, but was furious not to have been played in on goal first time by Perkins.

Early in the second half Mellon made an attacking tactical switch, taking off Jay Harris for winger Ben Pringle.

Robbie Willmott flashed a volley wide for Newport as the contest remained on a knife edge.

A high curling free kick from Pringle had to be tipped over the bar by Day before Norwood headed a cross from Ridehalgh into the clutches of the Newport stopper.

Former Tranmere midfielder Joss Labadie had a good chance when the ball broke on the edge of the D to him, but he could only scuff it wide.

With a more attacking outlook, Rovers started to control of the match a press County back.

When a shot from Norwood deflected into the path of Jennings, the ball was nicked off his foot just as he shaped to shoot from six yards out.

Newport were denied the lead 17 minutes from time when a deep cross from Dan Butler found Matt at the far post, but his diving header was brilliantly tipped onto the post by Davies from point blank range.

Padraig Amond saw a low shot saved by the Rovers’ ‘keeper as the Exiles started to enjoy a dangerous spell.

Late in the game, Mellon brought on club captain Steve McNulty for Keiron Morris, as they appeared to switch to a 3-5-2 formation.

Newport wanted a penalty when Matt went to ground under pressure from Monthe, but the referee wasn’t interested.

When a second penalty appeal was waved away, Tranmere counter-attacked forcing O’Brien to bring down Norwood on the halfway line.

That resulted in his second yellow card and his dismissal.

With a one-man advantage, Tranmere went for a winner in injury time.

A ball over the top from Ollie Banks picked out Norwood, but he could only poke it wide, before the match moved into extra time.

In a largely eventless first 15-minute period. Norwood wanted a free kick, and possibly a second sending off, when he went to ground beyond the last man, but this time the match official was unimpressed.

When Newport got a corner, a header by Amond had to be dealt with low to his left by Davies.

Early on in the second period of extra time, Davies was forced to make a save at his front post following a smart shot from substitute Keanu Marsh-Brown.

Norwood then went close to making the breakthrough when – on the counter – his shot from 10 yards out was deflected just wide.

Soon after, Pringle tee’d up Banks on the edge of the box but his 20-yarder was always rising over the crossbar.

With tired legs all over the pitch and penalties looming, dead ball specialist Adam Buxton was brought on for Sid Nelson.

A cross from Banks was met by the head of Norwood but Day was able to gather it at the second attempt.

But with spot kicks beginning to look inevitable, Tranmere made the breakthrough with a minute to play.

When the ball was worked wide to Caprice, he crossed for Jennings, who executed a classic centre forwards’ header that finally broke Day’s resolve and sent the travelling Super White Army into scenes of utter ecstasy.

Rovers hung on for two minutes of injury and completed the most incredible turnaround of fortunes this remarkable club has seen in modern times.

Match Stats:

Newport County 0

Tranmere Rovers 1

Jennings 119

After extra time (90 mins 0-0)

Half time: 0-0

Referee: Ross Joyce

Attendance: 25,217

Star man: Connor Jennings (Tranmere midfielder)

Match rating: 2/5

Newport County (4-3-3): Day, Poole, O’Brien, Demetriou, Butler, Sheehan (Bakinson 91), Labadie (Dolan 72), Bennett, Willmott (Marsh-Brown 106), Matt (Azeez 103), Amond

Newport County subs: Pipe, Crofts, McKirdy

Tranmere team (4-4-1-1): Davies, Caprice, Nelson (Buxton 115), Monthe, Ridehalgh, Morris (McNulty 82), Harris (Pringle 52), Banks, Perkins, Jennings, Norwood

Tranmere subs: Pilling, Dagnall, Mullin, Gilmour