Bavarian soccer club Greuther Fürth has been in the second division since 1997. In most of the 15 seasons since, the side looked set for promotion, only to choke at the final hurdle - but not this year.
The German Bundesliga will have a fresh face next season, Greuther Fürth. The leaders of the German second division table are now all but assured of promotion to the top flight. Their nine point advantage over the third-placed team, and hugely superior goal difference, with three games remaining means that only the most theoretically-minded mathematician could doubt their automatic promotion.
Dynamo Dresden's 2-1 win against Fortuna Düsseldorf on Monday handed Fürth - a team that has flirted with promotion so often only to fail to reach the top flight - their golden ticket into the Bundesliga. By losing, Fortuna missed their chance to overtake third-placed SC Paderborn, already effectively out of reach of the league leaders.
The top two teams from division two are automatically promoted to the Bundesliga, at the expense of that league's bottom two teams; the third-placed team takes on the third-to-last Bundesliga team over two legs in a relegation playoff.
Fürth coach Mike Büskens had attended the game in Dresden, and told reporters afterwards that "the lads should really celebrate this one."
He was referring to an impromptu party staged at the side's home stadium Monday evening, where players and fans had watched the Düsseldorf defeat on big screens, knowing its potential significance.
Successful season on all fronts
On top of their historic league campaign - Fürth narrowly lead Eintracht Frankfurt in the second division and may yet celebrate league victory as well as automatic promotion - the Bavarians raised several eyebrows in the German Cup this year. The lower league underdogs made it all the way to the semifinals, beating mid-table Bundesliga sides Hoffenheim and Nuremberg en route to the last four. Top division champions-elect Borussia Dortmund, who are unbeaten in a record 25 Bundesliga games, needed extra time and some last minute madness to scrape past Fürth 1-0 and make the final.
Fürth were one of the first second division teams in action this week, winning their Friday evening home game against St Pauli 2-1.
The Bavarian club had looked on course for promotion so often in the past, only to stumble across the finish line. Fürth finished fifth seven times and fourth once in their last ten attempts at reaching the Bundesliga.
Securing promotion is only the first step for a side seeking to improve its status. Hertha Berlin and Augsburg - the only two sides to go up last season - are by no means safe from relegation as this year's campaign draws to a close, while Kaiserslautern are already all but relegated after just a two-season spell in the Bundesliga.
Nevertheless, after missing out so many times in recent years, Greuther Fürth will soon have the chance to test their mettle against Germany's best on a weekly basis.
msh/slk (dpa, sid)