We should have known that this longest of seasons would stretch on; that an empty Wembley would do little to avert the usual caginess of the 'richest game in football'; that, after 90 minutes, two teams separated across 46 League games by nothing more than goal difference would be locked in stalemate.
So often over the last few months, it has looked as if Thomas Frank and his Brentford side had mastered the bizarre circumstances better than anyone, as they returned from lockdown to string together a winning run that put them on the brink of automatic promotion.
But, in the end, it was Scott Parker who made best use of every minute of a year-long campaign, right up until its concluding period of extra-time, when Joe Bryan's Wembley double sent Fulham back into the Premier League and marked the manager's coming of age.
Parker, who was appointed in February last year, with the club spiralling back to the Championship before being given the role permanently in May, has spent his time in charge healing the scars of that relegation.
Having spent £100million after their last promotion two years ago, the expectation was that Fulham would walk the Championship this season.
Bouncing straight back up has been their target all season and, though it did not come as easily as many had expected, they played in their manager's image last night, with control, style and grit.
It has been a season of learning and growing for the squad, the club and perhaps more than anyone, the manager. Across his first full season in charge, Parker has faced questions over being tactically naive and unable to mix it with the best coaches.
Frank twice got the better of him across the regular season but, when it mattered most, Parker got it spot on, finding a way to shackle Brentford's fierce attack and plotting Bryan's stroke of genius, a surprise free-kick that caught David Raya out at his near post to open the scoring in a tight game.
"It is my proudest moment by a long way," said Parker. "I am proud of my players, because I've seen them grow. I have learnt so much. This season couldn't have been much tougher. I've said it many a time about my team, where we were a year ago.
"We had some big, open wounds that from the outside no one saw. There were deep-rooted issues in the club that comes from relegation, from losing matches. Those wounds needed to be healed. They're still there."
Even had talismanic striker Aleksandar Mitrovic been fit, it might not have been in Parker's best interests to pick him, as the more mobile Aboubakar Kamara led a relentless pressing effort that stopped Brentford finding any first-half rhythm.
Tom Cairney and Harrison Reed screened superbly in front of the back four and Denis Odoi ensured Said Benrahma had no say on the outcome.
"We've done what we've done tonight," Parker added. "But there's still improvement, and that's what makes me so proud and happy. Tonight, I saw a team that represents what I've been saying over the last 12 months."
Parker can feel vindicated in the work he has done to bring this club back together. He needs a break, not that he will allow himself too long off.
"In my head I am saying seven to 10 days [off], but it'll be three or four really before I start worrying," he said. "We're going back into the big league."
He may not give himself the longest holiday, but Parker can sit comfortably knowing he takes the club back into the Premier League in a vastly different shape to that in which they left.