Sunderland secured its Premier League survival on Wednesday by drawing 0-0 at Arsenal, denying the London club a chance to guarantee a place in the Champions League group stage.
Sunderland moved four points clear of the relegation zone with a game to spare, ensuring Dick Advocaat completed the survival mission he took on when replacing Gus Poyet as manager two months ago.
Advocaat was tearful at the final whistle on the Emirates Stadium pitch, the first time the 67-year-old Dutchman said he had cried during an illustrious football career.
“Nobody was expecting we would do it and the team did it together,” said Advocaat, who has won titles with PSV Eindhoven, Zenit Saint-Petersburg and Glasgow club, Rangers.
“It is an unbelievable moment staying up,” he added. “The most important thing is the players started believing they could do something.”
Instead it will be Hull and Newcastle fighting to avoid joining Queens Park Rangers and Burnley in being relegated on the final day of the season on Sunday.
Newcastle heads into Sunday’s match against West Ham only two points ahead of Hull, which hosts Manchester United.
United has a slim but unrealistic chance of avoiding an August playoff to make the Champions League group stage. Arsenal is three points ahead in third place with a superior goal difference of seven despite going a third successive home game without scoring.
Jack Wilshere, making his first start since November, volleyed over, Santi Cazorla had a low effort saved, Olivier Giroud dragged a shot wide and Kieran Gibbs saw a header blocked by Costel Pantilimon’s diving second-half save.
Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina also made a double save early in the second half to prevent Steven Fletcher and Patrick van Aanholt grabbing a Sunderland winner.
“We lacked a bit of sharpness at the moment in our movement, in the way we create our chances and our finishing as well,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, whose team’s trophy hopes rest on the May 30 FA Cup final against Aston Villa.
The biggest celebrations on the final day of the league season will be at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea will lift the trophy and Sunderland can toast another season in the topflight.
Sunderland’s American owner, Ellis Short, was in north London to see his team hold out for a point.
Hired after Sunderland lost 4-0 to West Ham, Advocaat has taken charge of eight games, winning three, drawing three and losing twice.
Now the focus will shift to whether Advocaat stays at the northeast club for next season.
“I’ll give an answer on that next week,” he said, declining to expand further.