Great Britain stun rivals to earn gold and promotion to the world's elite

GB's players celebrate their gold medal success in Budapest. Picture: Dean Woolley.
GB's players celebrate their gold medal success in Budapest. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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MAKE no mistake - what happened at the Laszlo Papp SportArena on Saturday night bordered on miraculous.

Written off before they even stepped off the plane, taken lightly by virtually all of their rivals in Division 1A, Great Britain pulled off a stunning coup in Hungary and, 12 months from now, will be lining up in Slovakia alongside the likes of hockey giants such as Canada, Russia, Sweden and Finland.

Just 15.8 seconds were remaining on the clock when a speculative shot to the net from Nottingham Panthers' forward Robert Farmer somehow squirmed through the legs of Hungarian netminder Adam Vay and into the net.

Cue wild celebrations on the ice, the bench and in a small section of the stands. By contrast, the hosts and the vast majority of the 8,000-plus were left silenced, having come so close to overcoming a poor start to the tournament to earn promotion to the top tier themselves - until they were robbed by Farmer.

There was never going to be an easy route to promotion in this toughest of groups for any of the six teams taking part. But, after a stunning opening win against pre-tournament favourites Slovenia and follow-up victories against the higher-ranked Italy and Poland, GB went into the final game in control of their own destiny, knowing they needed just a point to return to the top tier for the first time since 1994.

They did it the hard way. Down 2-0 early in the third period, Pete Russell's side left it late, halving the deficit through Sheffield Steelers' Robert Dowd with just under 10 minutes remaining and then, when all seemed lost, earning the tie they needed through Farmer.

Not that it will be remembered as much, but GB also went on to win the final game of the week-long tournament in a shoot-out, Farmer adding a cheeky score on the backhand, with Rotherham-born netminder Ben Bowns performing more heroics in the net for a 3-2 win and two points to leave them at the top of the group, with second-placed Italy joining them at the higher level.

TRUE GRIT: GB's Ben O'Connor battles for puck possession against Hungary on Saturday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.

TRUE GRIT: GB's Ben O'Connor battles for puck possession against Hungary on Saturday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.

GB netminder Ben Bowns turns away another shot against Hungary. Picture: Dean Woolley.

GB netminder Ben Bowns turns away another shot against Hungary. Picture: Dean Woolley.