Russ Wilcox was disappointed to see his Scunthorpe United side just miss out on the League 2 title after a 2-2 draw with York City, but was still left to celebrate a unique promotion hat-trick.
They looked set for victory when they led 2-0 with goals from Paddy Madden and Terry Hawkridge.
But play-off bound York hit back to stretch their unbeaten run to 17 games with a strike on the stroke of half time from Ryan Brobbel and a 71st minute equaliser from Calvin Andrew.
"Of course it would have been nice to finish as champions, but this is a proud moment for me and a proud moment for this club," Wilcox declared.
"I have won promotion here as a player, won promotion as an assistant manager, but to win promotion as manager tops the lot.
"Congratulations to Chesterfield and Rochdale who have finished above us, but our form throughout the season has been good enough to see us finish in the top three and we are now looking forward to League One football next season."
Wilcox has seen Scunthorpe lose just once in 30 games since he first took charge last November - breaking all records for a newly appointed manager.
"This club has had three lean years but now it can start to look forward again," he said.
"I know how much this means to the club and to the people of Scunthorpe. This moment is for them.
"Stepping up a level in football is always difficult, we know that.
"There are some big clubs with bigger budgets in League One than us. There are some exciting fixtures for us to look forward to next season and we have got to make sure that we are competitive at that level."
For that, Wilcox will be looking to chairman Peter Swann who has found success in his first year since joining the club and has unveiled ambitious plans to move Scunthorpe to a brand new £18 million stadium in the next two years.
In-form York now head for a semi-final clash in the play-offs with Fleetwood.
And manager Nigel Worthington was full of praise for the way his side battled back for a point at Scunthorpe to preserve their unbeaten run.
"Our first half performance was not good enough and the players were told that at half time," he declared.
"It takes lots of character to come back from 2-0 down at a place like Scunthorpe and we showed that in abundance in the second half.
"It's one thing to see games out when we are 1-0 in front, like we have done recently, but it shows something else to come back from 2-0 down.
"After a poor start, we were full value for the point and we go into the play-offs with confidence.
"But we have got to go away now and make sure we prepare properly next week for what are going to be two difficult games against Fleetwood."
York have home advantage in the first leg and will be looking to continue the driving force that has seen them transformed from relegation strugglers to strong play-off contenders since the turn of the year.