THE play-offs are the worst-case scenario for Town after Joey Gudjonsson fired an arrow straight through Charlton’s defences.
On a day when promotion rivals Southampton, Peterborough and MK Dons all won – and Brighton clinched the League I title – it was crucial Town followed suit at The Valley.
Icelandic midfielder Gudjonsson duly delivered with a scorching 83rd-minute shot from a free-kick on the edge of the ‘D’.
It was a second bite of the cherry for the former Burnley man.
Brought down by Jose Semedo 30 yards out, his first effort was handled by Kyel Reid, who was on the end of a five-man wall.
That brought another attempt – and this time neither the red-shirted barrier nor keeper John Sullivan could prevent the ball flying into the right-hand corner right in front of Town’s 1,338-strong travelling contingent.
Cue wild celebrations and a guaranteed play-off place after Rochdale lost 1-0 at home to Brentford, for whom Town loan man Robbie Simpson got the goal.
Of course the second automatic spot alongside Brighton is still up for grabs, and Town continue to push their rivals all the way after a seventh win in 10 games.
It was tough going at times on a sunny afternoon in SE7, with Town fans made to sweat during several phases of home pressure.
But a determined defensive display brought a seventh clean sheet in eight matches, with one save from Ian Bennett really standing out.
It came in the 68th minute, when Portuguese midfielder Semedo met right-back Chris Solly’s cross with a looping header which had goal written all over it – until Town’s 39-year-old stopper defied his years by arching his back, stretching and tipping the ball over the bar.
It was a top stop by a man who has proved a more than useful signing, and there were also strong displays by what manager Lee Clark would deem his first-choice back four of Lee Peltier, Jamie McCombe, Peter Clarke and Gary Naysmith.