FOR a few, euphoric, fleeting seconds, we thought we'd done it.
The game at Cheltenham was tied at 1-1 after a shocking defensive howler from Pawel Abbott had allowed the home side to draw level.
But then word swept the packed Kilner Bank.
Southend United had drawn level against Torquay United - Town's bitter rivals for the third automatic promotion slot.
The excited celebrations, however, proved in vain. The rumour was false.
And so five thousand Town fans - dejected, dismayed, despondent - filed away from the Mac to contemplate the tortuous route of the play-offs and firstly two vital clashes with Lincoln.
The mood was subdued, thoughtful, even downhearted.
Especially so after Andy Booth's history-making 100th league goal had given us so much to cheer.
But in the minutes after the final whistle down at Cheltenham, the Town fans' undoubted optimism started to come through once more and there was talk of a celebratory trip to Cardiff.
It had all started so positively, some five hours earlier.
It seemed surreal, filing into a stadium with the goalposts dismantled and stored away in the seats behind the goals.
But the fans were out in force. So much so that stadium safety officer John Topham had to phone ahead, caught up in the matchday traffic.
Long queues formed at the turnstiles long before the gates opened at 1.20pm, with fans anxious to get good seats.
Some complained the screen - erected across the pitch, in front of the dug-outs - was too small.
But the mood was happy - a crowd ready to party.
By kick-off, the stand was packed. The official attendance was 5,163 - a crowd bigger than many of Town's Division 3 rivals attract, even when they are actually playing at home.
The chants and singing started 40 minutes before kick-off and the TV crews worked their magic.
Brilliant idea to show a collection of great Town goals from throughout the season, to a soundtrack of Rock The Casbaah from The Clash - Town's pre-match warm-up song. Kick-off and the tension was tangible. Six minutes in and the first bad news: Torquay were 1-0 up at Southend.
The crowd sang even louder, trying to lift the team playing so many miles away.
Torquay grabbed a second, the silence returned. But then came the moment that lifted hearts and voices.
Abbott curled a perfect pass over the Cheltenham defence, Andy Booth ghosted past a defender and the ball was in the net.
The Kilner Bank erupted. Cameramen rushed to capture the joyous celebrations and fans danced and hugged each other.
Could it last? The mood grew sombre as Cheltenham began the second half by piling on the pressure; we needed another goal.
Sadly, it came at the wrong end. Abbott's dance down the touchline towards his own goals had fans screaming for his head; the Cheltenham celebrations were matched by heads in hands and groans back at the McAlpine.
That false rumour that Southend had levelled quickly evaporated and the end was met with silence and sorrow.
Chris Buckley, of Netherton, said: "We were just so poor in the second half. Jackson will have to do something pretty special to lift the team for the play-offs."
Mrs Roberta Lister, a Town season ticket-holder for 40 years, was more philosophical.
"I'm gutted. I think the team selection was wrong today, as Rob Edwards should have been in.
"But we cannot criticise after the season we have had: 12 months ago, we could only dream of the play-offs.
"Now I daren't think of how it might go," said Mrs Lister, of Bradley.
Ten-year-old Ben Randall, down at the game with grandfather John, of Newsome, couldn't disguise his sadness. He had planned to party in his Town shirt, hat and scarf.
Mr Randall said: "Cheltenham were the better side for much of the game and, when they went down to 10 men, they had the better chances.
"The worry is that the team that finishes fourth has lost some of its momentum, while the other teams in the play-offs could have just picked it up.
"Anything can happen."
Former Town star Kieran O'Regan admitted: "Town threw it away after the break.
"Now it's down to the psychology. Those players will be down, but they have had a marvellous season and I hope Jacko can get them right for the play-offs."
3pm All to play for in Cheltenham and Southend. Town hold a two-point lead but Torquay have a better goal difference.
3.03pm Delight at Southend as Woods makes it 0-1 to Torquay and they are in the promotion hotseat.
3.11pm The promotion celebrations reach fever pitch at Roots Hall as Graham makes it 0-2 to Torquay - boosting their vital goal difference.
3.16pm Town joy as Booth's 100th club goal gives them the lead at Cheltenham and edges them two points ahead of Torquay
3.17pm More celebrations for Town as Dudfield pulls one back for Southend, making it 1-2 on the Essex coast.
4.35pm Anguish for Town as Abbott's slip lets in Duff to equalise for Cheltenham, handing the promotion advantage to Torquay.
4.49pm Wild celebrations at Cheltenham and the McAlpine prove shortlived, as a Southend equaliser is disallowed. Torquay still 1-2 up and in third place
4.50pm Final whistle at Cheltenham leaves Town in despair, waiting a few anxious seconds, but Southend cannot equalise and Torquay celebrate.