Hamburg SV clung on to their time-honoured place in the Bundesliga once again after beating second-tier Karlsruhe 2-1 -- and 3-2 on aggregate -- after moments of extraordinary late drama in the second leg of their playoff on Monday.
The three-time German champions, the only club never to have been relegated since the Bundesliga's creation in 1963, were 1-0 down and on their way out with 90 minutes played at Karlsruhe until Chilean international Marcelo Diaz curled home a last-minute freekick to take the tie to extra time.
Then, with a penalty shoot out looming with just four minutes of the extra period remaining, Nicolai Mueller scored for the visitors, ensuring that Karlsruhe would need to score twice to gain promotion.
Finally, Hamburg keeper Rene Adler sealed victory by saving a Rouwen Hennings penalty, awarded for handball, two minutes into stoppage time.
The late dramas ensured the former European champions narrowly maintained their proud record of being the only Bundesliga club never to have been relegated after 52 years in the top flight as they survived for the second straight year after another dismal season.
"No one gave up," declared Mueller, whose tap in secured the victory. "We did it. We're still in the Bundesliga. We were carrying a lot of baggage all season and it feels great to unload that all in a few seconds now."
Adler smiled: "I feel like I aged three years tonight. It's incredible what we did in the last six weeks. A triumph of team spirit.
"It was a crazy match and anything could have happened in a match like this. I was already thinking at the end of regulation time that we'd end up in the second division but caught myself and said 'Stop, no that's not going to happen'."
Reinhold Yabo had brought them to the brink by volleying Karlsruhe ahead in the 78th minute.
Hamburg, 16th in the 18-team Bundesliga the last two seasons, also needed a relegation playoff to stay up last season thanks to an away goal in a 1-1 draw at Greuther Fuerth in the second leg of the playoff after a goalless first leg in Hamburg.
Paderborn and Freiburg were relegated to the second division at the end of the season last week while Ingolstadt and Darmstadt 98 secured promotion to the Bundesliga.