IAN Evatt and his history-making Wanderers deserve every bit of praise which will  come their way in the days and weeks ahead – but this promotion meant so much more.

This was a victory for fans who watched in tears as Jim White paraded in front of a countdown clock while their club was hours from extinction.

This was a victory for the staff who had to swallow their pride and shop from a foodbank to feed their families because a despicable owner refused to pay the wages.

This was a victory for the teenagers who turned out in a sponsorless, off-the-rail kit to play for Bolton Wanderers when nobody else would.

This was our victory. And the reason a third-placed finish in League Two can be celebrated like a Premier League title is that it really does feel like a line in the sand.

No longer should Bolton be gawped at like a car wreck, a fallen giant, the poster boys for financial mismanagement.

This is now a club with a conscience. And though far from perfect, it now at least strives to have a successful and sustainable future which can be enjoyed by generations of Boltonians to come, rather than exist as a plaything to be discarded at will.

It seems a shame that Evatt and his players should have their moment overshadowed by such baggage – but nevertheless the young manager knows what he bought into. This was, in his words, a big ship to turn around and while there have been times this season that doubts has been cast his way, he has not once backed down, nor compromised on his philosophy for how football should be played.

To produce this standard of football, in the fourth tier, on a rutted pitch, in front of a huge TV audience, tells you everything you need to know about the characters who took on the challenge of making Bolton better.

If defeat against Exeter City last weekend felt like a product of over-confidence and loss of focus, it is to Evatt’s immense credit that he got his team to produce such a laser-sharp response.

Poor Crawley did not know which way to turn as Antoni Sarcevic put Wanderers on the board inside 10 minutes with a magical run and finish.

TV viewers could probably hear John Yems’ frustration, and though little out of the Reds manager’s mouth could be printed in a family paper, you could sympathise with his frustration. The home side were being ripped to shreds.

Dapo Afolayan, keen to make amends after an off-day against Exeter, tormented his full-back George Francomb to the point where he had no choice but to kick out.

The West Ham loanee – lovingly dubbed BTec Okocha by the Bolton faithful – produced some party tricks the Nigerian legend would have been proud to call his own.

His first goal for the club has been a long time in the making and had few frills. Gethin Jones did the leg work down the right, producing a fine ball buried from close range.

Moments later, Francomb was handed a second yellow card from ref Robert Madley for chopping Afolayan down again, effectively ending the game as any sort of contest.

Up in the directors’ box, Sharon Brittan and Co kicked every ball. The owners have been Bolton’s de facto fanbase through this weirdly silent season and some 18 months after Football Ventures rescued the club from the brink, not a soul in the town would begrudge them a celebratory moment.

In the press box, the legendary figure of John McGinlay – 28 years to the day since he scored a penalty to send Bolton up against Preston at Burnden Park – struggled to contain his delight at seeing his club reborn again.

Down on the pitch, Wanderers refused to relax. Eoin Doyle may not have ended Saturday at his sharpest – dancing the night away with fans in front of the hotel – but his fancy footwork warranted a 19th goal of the season, which arrived shortly after half time after linking up well with Sarcevic.

Lloyd Isgrove, whose industry really has helped Wanderers hang in the promotion race, picked up a deserved goal after latching on to Tony Craig’s misplaced pass and finishing well past Glenn Morris.

Crawley’s threats had been almost exclusively from set pieces, which meant Alex Baptiste and Co never got the luxury of switching off. Ricardo Santos’s one lapse led to a consolation goal for Davide Rodari at the bitter end, punished by a rollocking by keeper Matt Gilks, who had been on course for a 17th clean sheet of the season.

The final whistle blew and it hit home hard that there should have been hundreds – if not thousands – of travelling fans who would have screamed in delight.

Players waited in muted celebration as Sky Sports milked the occasion for their own end, eventually popping the Champagne corks and breaking out the beers in front of a giant sponsors banner.

Evatt’s post-match interviews was interrupted by several players rushing over and dousing him with a bucketful of ice and water.

A small number of Bolton fans had travelled to West Sussex to cheer the coach on its arrival. Once again, Evatt led his players through the doors in the corner of the stadium to make sure their trip was worth it.

Back home in Bolton, and in every corner of the globe that this great club is supported, celebration.

This remarkable turnaround in fortune, a season rescued in the most extraordinary circumstances, ended in absolute perfection.

And the exciting thing is: This is only the beginning.