FC Koln have ensured another year of Bundesliga football after dominating the second leg of the promotion playoff final against Holstein Kiel with a 5-1 win.
FC Koln had lost the first game 1-0 at home but overturned the deficit at Kiel on Sunday morning (AEST) in a game that featured three goals in the first six minutes.
Jonas Hector broke the deadlock for the visitors with three minutes played but Lee Jae Sung kept Kiel's hopes alive with the equaliser just a minute later.
But the home side's ambitions were crushed after Sebastian Andersson struck twice and Rafael Czichos added a fourth goal for FC Koln shortly before the break.
For the first time in seven months, fans were allowed into Kiel's stadium and the 2,334 spectators in the stands had to comply with special hygiene measures against the coronavirus pandemic.
But not even their support was able to prompt a reaction from Kiel and FC Koln's party was sealed with a late goal by Ellyes Skhiri in the second half.
"To achieve this one must believe, stand together. We know what FC Koln means to the city. The fans weren't always happy with us, today we wanted to give something back," Hector told broadcasters DAZN.
FC Koln escaped automatic relegation late in the final round of the Bundesliga regular season with a win over relegated Schalke.
Coach Friedhelm Funkel, who took over the FC Koln team mid-April with the short-term task to save them from relegation, was "glad we completed this mission."
"I was naturally nervous, but also well prepared. I knew we had a chance. I enjoyed the past seven weeks," said Funkel, who will be replaced by Steffen Baumgart next season.
Kiel had been living a fairytale season, knocking out Bayern Munich in the second round of the German Cup and reaching the competition's semi-finals.
But the team was strongly affected by the coronavirus pandemic as infections among their ranks forced the squad to quarantine twice in March and April.
"When you lose 5-1, there's not much you can say. Maybe we wanted it so much and we couldn't play the way we wanted from the start," Kiel winger Finn Bartels said.
Coach Ole Werner shrugged: "We played the best season of the club history. At the end, it was one miracle too few."