Exeter boss Matt Taylor spoke of the joy of going top of League Two with a 1-1 draw at Northampton at the same time as Forest Green lost at home to Harrogate.
Mitchell Pinnock had given the Cobblers the lead before a late goal from Sam Nombe proved enough to send the Grecians into top spot.
Nombe’s goal, scored with his first touch, was enough to take already promoted Exeter to the top of the table for the first time all season.
They are one point clear of previous leaders Forest Green going into the final game of the season, with Port Vale the visitors to St James Park.
Taylor admitted: “We hadn’t even thought or spoken about the title up until Tuesday but it has given us a new focus after the euphoria of getting promoted.
“I enjoyed the quality on show and I enjoyed how competitive the game was because that was two teams going at it.
“I was really pleased with our first-half performance. Their goal was a poor goal from our point of view but it’s a moment of brilliance by the opposition and credit to them – they have some serious players.
“We got back in the game in the second half and I felt the substitutions made quite a difference. They were dynamic and got up to the speed of the game quickly and then it was a case of defending our box when we needed to.
“We had to ride out some pressure towards the end but we still showed quality and all the attributes we have shown throughout the season to put ourselves in this position.
“It became a bit disjointed towards the end but that was just desperation from both teams. If they had scored a winner, they might have deserved it. If we had scored, we might have deserved it.
“It was just one of those games where two teams gave absolutely everything and I’m pleased because that was a serious game of football and a good reflection of League Two.
“We have come here in the past and wilted in terms of defending our box but we kept them at arm’s length for the majority of the game. I think we saw Northampton at their best and I felt we really had to push ourselves to get something out of the game.”
Northampton boss Jon Brady is not ready to call time on his side’s automatic promotion challenge just yet despite the draw.
The Cobblers needed wins from their final two games to guarantee a top-three finish but they were pegged back by Nombe’s instant impact as a second-half substitute.
They remain third in League Two, above Bristol Rovers on goal difference, but can be overtaken by Port Vale and Mansfield, both of whom play on Monday.
“The result itself is disappointing and we are disappointed not to get three points but I’m definitely not disappointed with the effort and the application and the endeavour the players gave today,” said Brady.
“They had two chances in the second half. One goes in and Liam Roberts makes an excellent save for the other one but we also had some great opportunities to win the game.”
Brady was unhappy with the manner of Exeter’s 70th-minute equaliser, which came from a quick counter-attack following an offside decision at the other end.
“If you watch the disallowed goal back, I feel a little bit aggrieved,” he added.
“We went and celebrated but their goalkeeper has taken the free-kick about eight yards further forward from where the offside was.
“They got the ball and took it quickly while we went off celebrating so that’s a tough one to take.
“But it was a great day with the ground sold out and it felt like the club was all together as one – our staff, our team and our fans. You can’t ask for anything more.
“We wanted the three points but I’m so pleased because our players gave it all and produced a great performance and our town performed as well.
“Obviously Barrow is a huge game on the final day but this is what we are in the game for.”