Fulham boss Roy Hodgson revealed he had started to contemplate life after relegation before Danny Murphy’s winner at Portsmouth saved them from the drop.
Had Murphy not headed the only goal of the game at Pompey, Fulham would have been in the Championship next season and Reading would have stayed up.
Hodgson said: “I am delighted we did it but, at the same time, I can’t help but think how close we were to going down.
“It is sad for Reading and Birmingham – they have all my sympathy tonight.”
In the end, Reading’s 4-0 win at Derby proved in vain, as did Birmingham’s 4-1 success at home to Blackburn.
Both teams started the day in the bottom three, with Fulham just above them in 17th place, but with Birmingham and Reading both winning, Hodgson’s side were in the relegation places until Murphy’s 74th-minute strike.
Hodgson added: “In all the jubilation, I must say we were not that far away from it being us and not them.
“But it feels great, it was obviously going to be a very difficult game to win for us. Portsmouth gave their all and we knew it was going to be a tough task.”
Hodgson inherited a team which looked relegation certainties when he took over at the end of December.
And there appeared little sign of improvement until a dramatic turnaround in the last month.
He said: “You always dream you are going to go in and start winning matches straight away and by a couple of months down the road you’d be in the top half of the table.
“But I think if I am realistic I understood what a difficult task I took on.
“But I have had great support from everyone, not least all the staff and the administrative people.
“And the players, quite simply – since we have decided on our best team – have been magnificent.
“I am very impressed. Had we thrown in the towel I don’t think many people would have been too surprised.
“You read headlines that we were dead people walking and waiting for the season to end.
“But we have done much better than that and done it by playing well and working hard.
“All the games where we have got good results, I don’t think anyone can say we didn’t deserve it.”