Youthful Cheltenham Town gave a tantalising glimpse of the future, signing off from their Football League adventure with an encouraging point at AFC Wimbledon.
With nothing at stake but pride, manager Gary Johnson handed the younger members of his squad the chance to impress at their Kingsmeadow ground, and they played their part in ensuring the Robins didn’t end the campaign at the foot of League Two.
They haven’t finished bottom of the table since the 1961-62 campaign when they plied their trade in the Southern League Premier division, although they made a decent fist of it this time around.
But the task of bouncing back started here in south London, backed by the noisy bunch loyal supporters who have travelled the length and breadth of country with little reward for their amazing commitment to the cause.
They were determined to have a party as the curtain fell on 16 memorable years in Football League.
And what a ride it’s been, but it’s over. For now at least.
There were three changes for the club’s 747th league match in football’s elite.
Six academy graduates featured in south London, with Harry Williams and Bobby Dale paired in attack, and Joe Hanks, in for Matt Sparrow alongside Matt Richards in midfield.
The manager, who agreed during the week to lead the club in the National League next term, resisted change at the back but went on to use James Bowen on the left of midfield during the second half at the expense of Wes Burns, with Zack Kotwica switching flanks to accommodate him.
Striker Jamal Lawrence was handed a little over quarter of an hour to make an impact up front.
Both sides played with freedom, which made for an entertaining contest with no shortage of goalmouth action, with most of it at Trevor Carson’s end in the opening exchanges.
Kotwica tested Shea early, using his unfavoured left foot but it was easy for James Shea, while the Northern Irish shotstopper was bright to deny Alfie Potter a moment later.
Adebayo Akinfenwa headed tamely on target, but Carson held it before Craig Tanner dragged one wide from 16 yards.
Next Wes Burns snatched at one from the inside right channel, and it flew over.
Moments later Akinfenwa played in Potter down the right, who nipped past Jack Deaman before shooting straight at Carson, not that he knew a lot about it.
But for all their possession, it was the Robins that took the lead mid-way through the first half through a fine individual goal by Durrell Berry.
The Wimbledon defending left plenty to be desired, but Williams was sharp to capitalise on a misplaced pass down the right, but his cross was cleared as far as the Cheltenham right back.
He picked it up and carried the ball into the box before unleashing a fierce drive that found the back of the net via the inside of the left upright.
Potter almost headed an immediate reply, but Carson was equal to it, and then Akinfenwa glanced one wide.
The goal had taken the wind out of the Dons' sails, but they were back on terms two minutes before the break when Jack Smith beat Carson with a header.
It started out on the left, Rigg lifting a ball to the back post where Akinfenwa headed into the wing's path, who bravely headed home.
He took a knock for his troubles, but he was soon back onto this feet to celebrate with a tribute to team mate Sammy Moore, who had recently suffered a bereavement.
Rigg rose to meet Tanner’s delivery from the right at the start of the second half, but the wing back’s header flew a couple of feet wide.
Centre half Ryan Sweeney blasted one wide from the edge of the box with a little over 20 minutes to play and there was a chance for Williams, but his first touch let him down and Shea gathered at the young striker’s feet.
Rigg posed a threat all afternoon and volleyed one well over, then pulled a low angled effort wide of the right post as the game drew to a close.
It was apt that Supporters’ Player of the Season, Carson, produced a final telling contribution to somehow push substitute George Oakley’s late effort onto the post to ensure the young Robins travelled home with some credit at the end of a season to forget.
AFC WIMBLEDON (3-5-2): Shea; Fuller (c), Oshilaja, Sweeney; Smith (Moore 79), Tanner (Fitzpatrick, 72), Reeves, Beere, Rigg; Potter, Akinfenwa (Oakley 82). Subs not used: Worner (Gk), Bulman, Azeez, Goodman.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-4-2): Carson; Berry, Deaman, Brown (c), Braham-Barrett; Burns (Bowen 55), Hanks, Richards, Burns; Williams (Lawrence 73), Dale (Sterling-James 73). Subs not used: Gould (Gk), Harrad, Manset, Sparrow.
REFEREE: A Davies
ATTENDANCE: 4,374 (347 from Cheltenham)