Notts County were crowned champions of League Two tonight in a five-star showing away at Darlington.
Only top scorer Lee Hughes was declared unfit to play following a number of injury worries prior to kick-off. This paved the way for Craig Westcarr to deputise, switching from his regular spot on the wing, which was instead occupied by Johnnie Jackson.
Ben Davies, who survived a late fitness test, was almost the architect of an early goal with a trademark set-piece from the right wing. Home goalkeeper Nick Liversedge charged out of his goal to collect but lacked conviction, leading the ball to skid dangerously wide of his back post with Graeme Lee lurking.
The best effort of the opening stages came from Darlington's captain, Gary Dempsey. Finding room for manoeuvre 30 yards from goal, he arrowed a shot that looked destined to find the far top corner, only for Kasper Schmeichel to acrobatically tip behind at full reach.
For Notts, Lee was looking the biggest threat and from another attacking set-piece he headed against the foot of the post. Still, the game presented the feeling of an exhibition affair, perhaps down to the sparsely populated arena, and chances were arriving in dribs and drabs.
From one of these rare openings Notts took the lead through Johnnie Jackson. Delroy Facey had muscled his way onto a long ball and cut a cross back from the touchline into the path of Jackson, who prodded through the wrong-footed Liversedge's legs.
The lead should have been doubled within a minute when a direct kick from Schmeichel found its way through to Westcarr. With plenty of time to finish the forward looped the ball over Liversedge and the crossbar.
Notts started the second period showing more attacking threat, looking to break quickly at every opportunity. Facey was first to cause a scare, bursting past Andrew Milne at left-back before floating over the bar from an acute angle.
The travelling fans were in high spirits and in fine voice, breaking into extended choruses of 'Black and White Army' and 'Championes'. They knew that if the score line stayed the same a championship party would await them on Saturday at Meadow Lane.
Early pressure continued deep into the half but little was being created in the final third. The missing element appeared to be the final ball, though a second goal seemed like it would be enough to wrap the game up.
This finally came when Westcarr scooped the ball back into the area following a clearance from a corner. Mike Edwards remained onside and steadied himself to overhead kick past a stationary Liversedge, sending the crowd behind the goal into hysterics.
Magpies' fans sensed that the title was won when a third arrived, courtesy of Westcarr, who had worked hard all evening. Chasing a lofted pass, he stumbled as a result of a trip but stayed on his feet to slot under the advancing goalkeeper.
The floodgates were open and straight off the bench Luke Rodgers smashed home the fourth. Controlling a high Westcarr ball down the line with his chest, he proceeded to slam into the roof of the net in spectacular style.
Rodgers bagged his second a few minutes later, again converting a superb Westcarr delivery. From the right flank this time, Westcarr fired in a crisp, low cross allowing the striker to flick into the net with his back heel.
This rounded off a convincing 5-0 win and jubilant celebrations ensued behind the goal, as well as on the pitch. The division's trophy will now be lifted after the match against Cheltenham on Saturday so make sure you don't miss that one!
Man of the Match: Craig Westcarr
Attendance: 2,112 (TBA Notts County supporters)
Notts County: Kasper Schmeichel, John Thompson, Mike Edwards, Graeme Lee, Stephen Hunt, Johnnie Jackson (Clapham 65), Neal Bishop, Ricky Ravenhill, Ben Davies (Rodgers 72), Delroy Facey (Hawley 80), Craig Westcarr.
Substitutes: Russell Hoult, Matt Hamshaw, Jamie Clapham, Karl Hawley, Luke Rodgers, Sean Canham, Ade Akinbiyi.
Scorer(s): Jackson 33, Edwards 70, Westcarr 74, Rodgers 78, 81
Yellow Card(s): Hunt 42
Darlington: Nick Liversedge, Mark Bower (Burn 77), Alan White, Andrew Milne, Gary Dempsey, Dan Groves, Mark Convery, Simon Madden, Nathan Mulligan (Marshall 71), John McReady, Michael Smith.
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Dan Riley, Rikki Bains, Jordan Marshall, Dan Burn.
Yellow Card(s): None
Report by: Dane Vincent