Portsmouth 0 Norwich 1
Simeon Jackson kept up his hot streak to fire Norwich back into the Premier League.
The striker headed his ninth goal in seven matches to sink stubborn Portsmouth and secure promotion for Paul Lambert’s side.
Third-placed Cardiff’s shock home defeat by Middlesbrough meant Norwich kicked off knowing a win on the south coast would ensure they went up with a game to spare.
And Jackson, formerly of Rushden and Gillingham, will now be lining up against Manchester United and Chelsea next season after his priceless strike completed a remarkable rise for the Canaries.
City dropped out of the Premier League six years ago and hit rock-bottom when they were at the foot of League One on the opening day of last season following a 7-1 defeat by Colchester.
Their reaction to that hammering was to promptly hire the opposition manager, and just 20 months later Lambert’s Norwich have become the first team to achieve back-to-back promotions to the top flight since Manchester City in 2000.
On a memorable night fo the Norfolk club, more than 3,000 fans partied in the away stand while club shareholder and chief cheerleader Delia Smith celebrated in the directors’ box.
Expectation was in the air after Cardiff’s implosion in the evening’s early kick-off, and Norwich should have taken the lead with less than a minute on the clock.
David Fox’s free-kick was deflected high into the air and onto the head of defender Zak Whitbread, but he nodded wide from all of three yards out.
Moments later Andrew Surman’s cross was half-cleared to the feet of Jackson but the striker was off target for once.
Pompey may have had little to play for, but they were clearly not in the mood to host a party and Aaron Mokoena and Hermann Hreidarsson were soon in referee Andy D’Urso’s notebook for some pretty unfriendly challenges.
City’s skipper and top scorer Grant Holt fashioned their best chance of the first half, expertly controlling Fox’s high ball on his in-step and turning Mokoena at the same time.
But his prod past Jamie Ashdown had no power and Mokoena was able to recover and clear the danger.
Two minutes into the second half Norwich passed up another good chance when Jackson tore past Mokoena to reach Holt’s lobbed pass only to slide his angled shot wide.
But Jackson made no mistake three minutes later to send the City fans behind the goal wild.
Andrew Crofts found Fox in space and the midfielder swung in a superb cross for Jackson to bury his header past Ashdown.
Portsmouth, to their credit, tried to hit back and twice Kanu was denied from close range.
But nothing was going to deny Norwich, who have doggedly pursued runaway leaders QPR all season.
And, barring an FA points deduction for Rangers, City’s victory means the npower Championship automatic promotion and relegation issues are all settled with a week of the season still to go.