DARLINGTON are going up.

They are promoted after winning today’s play-off final 2-0 over Bamber Bridge, both the goals coming early in the second half.

Nathan Cartman and Graeme Armstrong were on target, the goals inside a frantic five-minute period, meaning the season ends with Quakers clinching their second promotion inside three years having also won the Northern League in 2013.

They can now look forward to local derbies with Whitby Town and Blyth Spartans next season, as well as renewing rivalries with Salford City, who won the title.

Today’s win represented their first success in the play-offs having failed four times before: In 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2014.

A year ago they lost in the semi-final to Ramsbottom United, who went on to beat Brig in the final, the Lancashire club now having to cope with a second such defeat in as many seasons.

Quakers finished second, eight points ahead of third-placed Bamber Bridge, and reached the final having defeated Spennymoor Town in a dramatic semi-final on Wednesday.

Today’s game was less thrilling, more tense, with Darlington second best in the first half.

Bamber Bridge, a team Darlington had defeated twice in the league this season, started stronger and missed a handful of scoring opportunities.

Inside the first 60 seconds a left-footed shot by Matt Lawlor whistled past the post after a free-kick on the right, and the visitors’ second wasted chance came when Stuart Vasey flashed a low shot wide from just inside the penalty area.

A close-range save by Mark Bell, in for the suspended Peter Jameson, kept it at 0-0 when Alistair Waddecar looked nailed on to score after a mix-up in the Darlington defence.

The atmosphere was subdued, tension in the air, perhaps fans were nervous.

Quakers were playing cautiously, although they defended reasonably well, but they still needed to raise their game if they were to go ahead.

From nowhere they almost scored. Brig keeper Lee Dovey tipped over Cartman’s overhead kick and from the resulting corner Terry Galbraith somehow headed wide in front of goal when unmarked.

It almost 35 minutes for Darlington’s first sustained period of passing in Brig’s half. It came to nothing, but it marked progress at least, but the half ended with another near miss by Brig.

A half-volley by Paul McKenna was headed wide by Bell, the keeper alert enough to deal with an effort that bounced deceivingly.

Darlington had their work cut out, some strong words at half-time from manager Martin Gray they began the second period with far more urgency.

They won a couple of corners, Galbraith again heading wide under pressure when meeting an Adam Mitchell delivery, but the goal Quakers craved came on 52 minutes, Cartman scoring.

It was from a set-piece that Liam Hatch netted an equaliser in midweek, and it was again a dead ball that saw find the net.

After a long throw by Gary Brown, Alan White flicked the ball on and Cartman was on hand to force the home at the far post, the striker celebrating wildly.

It was his seventh goal for the club since joining in January and easily his most important.

The Northern Echo:

And it was soon 2-0, strike-partner Armstrong heading home at close-range after another well-worked set-piece routine.

Armstrong nodded in his 26th goal of the season after Galbraith’s free-kickm awarded when Michael Muscat fouled Stephen Thompson on the byline, was headed back across goal by Cartman.

Suddenly it was a different game, Darlington looked much more assured, while the home fans sprang into life.

There was terrific noise came from the Tin Shed, and they would’ve been even louder had Cartman’s shot not hit the bar. He opened his body up and let fly from distance, the ball rebounding off the woodwork.

With Quakers closing in on full-time, Gray sent on the more defensive-minded Ian Watson for Mitchell in preparation for an onslaught, but it never really came.

Striker Jon Macken, who once cost Manchester City £5m, came on for the final 15 minutes, but he made little impact.

It was Darlington who came closest to scoring again, White forcing Dovey into a flying save.

But Dovey ended the game and the season on a sour note. He raced to the edge of his penalty area and flattened Armstrong, who ended the afternoon suffering concussion.

It was an obvious dismissal decision for referee Paul Newhouse, who soon blew the full-time whistle, sparking a mass celebration.

Champagne corks popped as Darlington received the play-off trophy from league officials and supporters celebrated the moment they have longed for all season - promotion.

The Northern Echo:

Goals: Cartman (52, 1-0), Armstrong (56, 2-0)
Bookings: Mahoney (25, foul), Muscat (55, foul)
Referee: Paul Newhouse (Peterlee)
Attendance: 1,876
Darlington (4-4-2): Bell; Brown, White, Hunter, Galbraith; A Mitchell (Watson 71), Scott, Portas, Thompson (Dowson 67); Armstrong, Cartman (Hatch 83). Subs (not used): Watson, Weldon, Hatch, Mota
Bamber Bridge (4-3-3): Dovey; Mahoney, Lawlor, Muscat, Steel; Vasey, McKenna, Thompson (Linney 62); Waddecar, Green (Macken 76), Marlow. Subs (not used): Samberg (gk), Pickup, Alexander