Derby County manager Steve McClaren insisted it wasn't his side's time to be promoted after they suffered a cruel 1-0 loss to Queens Park Rangers in the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Final at Wembley Stadium.
Bobby Zamora struck the decisive goal of the game in the last seconds of normal time with what was QPR's first shot on target in the Final.
And it came after Gary O'Neil had been sent off on the hour mark for bringing down Johnny Russell, when the Rams winger was advancing in on Rob Green's goal.
In his post-match press conference, McClaren said: "We said before [the game] concentrate on the performance and keep playing the style of football that has got us to Wembley.
"I'm so proud of them as they did that to a tee. We controlled the game, dominated, and showed courage, but football's cruel. One lapse and you lose a game like that.
"Credit to Queens Park Rangers. With 10 men, they've got the ideal team and experience to deal with that. With another 30 minutes we felt our patience would have been rewarded.
"If we were ready, we'd have won the game. We haven't, for whatever reason. We've said to the that we've still got a bit of learning to do.
"It was Queens Park Rangers' turn - they were ready. It's not our time yet. But I'm so proud of those players, so proud of what they've achieved; 85 points, third in the league, top goalscorers."
Harry Redknapp's Hoops will now return to the Premier League after spending just one season back in The Football League, while Derby will compete in the Sky Bet Championship for the seventh successive campaign.
But McClaren predicted bright things and is confident his team will continue to develop, using the heartache of the Final defeat as fuel for next season.
"We watched them [QPR] celebrate, pick up the cup, go into the Premier League," the 53-year-old added.
"We don't want this hurt again, because it does hurt. We'll try and go straight up next time.
"If it sticks together, this team will get stronger. You saw exactly what they can do today. We've got the nucleus of a great squad.
"We have to stick together, get over this, and use the hurt and make sure next season we continue what we've been doing.
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