Two big buddies in Paul Warne and Paul Hurst, who watched each others’ backs for a number of years on patrol for Rotherham United – whom they provided with yeoman service – were handed their day in the sun at Wembley.
But sadly, there was a dark denouement for one.
That respect was all too evident at the final whistle, with Warne sharing a hug with his good mate, as he did before the start and electing not to overindulge in the party scenes after breaking the heart of his old mate as the Millers booked a speedy return ticket to the Championship.
Warne more than anyone would have truly felt for Hurst.
The epitome of cool and class; it was a smart touch from the Millers chief in a season in which he has got most things right and his timing has been exquisite.
Not one for lavish celebrations, Warne stood and surveyed the scene after the Millers clinched an instant Championship return and drunk it all in.
He left the bubbly to the others.
A stirring chorus of ‘There’s Only One Paul Warne’ made for the sweetest of music from the Rotherham contingent with that heartfelt, simple message expressing gratitude. It was affirmation for their heroes splendid renaissance under the stewardship of Warne, who has given the Millers’ faithful their club back.
He is Rotherham’s very own special one, and was feted with a chant of ‘We’ve Got Warniola’ a fair few times.
And, like the famed king of chic and elan at Manchester City, Pep Guardiola, he looked suitably stylish in his designer black polo shirt.
Hot and sweaty in his Shrewsbury training cagoule in the first half, his counterpart Hurst elected for just a shirt in the second period.
His side also took the hint and produced a performance which was refreshed and revitalised following their meek first period when the Millers bossed proceedings, even if they passed up a gift when David Ball missed a penalty.
Shrewsbury rallied, but these Millers were not to be moved for the umpteenth time this season.
They found a way as they have done in the main this season.
Warne did his best to keep a lid on his emotions throughout, although there was the odd chink in his armour.
The angst was there to see when Caolan Lavery missed a wonderful chance to win the game for the Millers and Michael Smith lost his footing when well placed in front of goal.
The Millers chief immediately put his head in his hands on both occasions, as did countless Millers supporters.
But they need not have worried as the man with the magic hat sprinkled some more stardust.
And it was just so fitting that Warne’s leading lieutenant on the pitch in Richard Wood, the very embodiment of Warne’s unflinching, solid, dependable and unyielding Millers, shared the billing.
Special moments light up Wembley and Wood’s joyous sense of exhilaration after his pair of goals was golden and something no amount of money can buy.
An occasion that was meant to be all about ‘Warney’ and ‘Hursty’ had its own Richard Wood show.
Warne admitted to feeling surreal at the prospect of facing his mate at Wembley.
Seeing a 32-year-old centre-half score two goals in a play-off final at the home of football was just as surreal.
Wood’s commitment was total, even towards the end of extra time when he could barely break into a jog.
But he was not to be denied on this of all days.
It was his time.
With his family in the crowd, including his two young sons, one of whom accompanied him into the press conference following his goal and lion-hearted performance in the play-off semi-final second leg win over Scunthorpe United, more picture book moments were provided for the Wood family album.
Nigel Jemson took the headlines on the first occasion that the Millers beat Shrewsbury Town at Wembley in the Autowindscreens Shield final in 1996, netting both goals in United’s 2-1 success, with Wood repeating that feat with another double against the Shrews at the home of football as the South Yorkshire outfit prevailed by that same margin.
That final in 1996 was the end of a wonderful journey, with the Millers latest trek which began in a pre-season training camp in the Austrian Alps being just as arduous and rewarding.
Now for a holiday and hasn’t Warne deserved one.
Then, all roads led to the Championship with the Millers emphatically rediscovering their mojo.