With cardboard cut outs replacing fans, Wembley Stadium was not as we know it, as a different-look Play-Off Final took place behind closed doors - a first in the history of the Play-Offs.
Neither side went into the game strangers to the occasion, both having experienced Play-Off defeats in recent years - the desire for victory stronger than ever.
It’s hard to believe that in an 18-year managerial career, Northampton boss Keith Curle has never experienced promotion, but his players were determined to leave no stone unturned in their quest to reach League One.
The Cobblers started brightly in the opening 90 seconds, a sign of things to come perhaps and it took just over ten minutes to break the deadlock as Ryan Watson gave them a dream start.
A long throw hurled in by captain Charlie Goode was cleared only as far as Watson, who turned on the edge of the area striking into the bottom corner to score his seventh - and probably most important - goal of the season.
From then, it was all Northampton. Nicky Adams posed a real threat from set pieces, his dipping free-kick from 22 yards forced Exeter goalkeeper Jonny Maxted into a save only as far as Sam Hoskins, whose follow-up effort was tipped over the bar.
The Cobblers remained on top, keeping the pressure on the Exeter City defence. Hoskins threatened again, and saw his shot blocked on the edge of the area, before Maxted was again forced into action, rushing off his line to get to deny Vadaine Oliver. There were shouts for a penalty, but replays show that the Exeter stopper did well to get there first.
Exeter’s Jayden Richardson threatened with a run down the left in what was the Grecians’ best attacking move of the game so far, but his cross was met by Northampton captain Goode, whose intelligent defending saw the ball out for a goal kick.
On the half hour mark the Cobblers doubled their lead and it was Callum Morton on the scoresheet again. A hero in the Semi-Finals, the on-loan West Brom forward finished instinctively following a set piece into the box, 2-0 and looking good for Keith Curle’s side.
From there, Exeter struggled to get into the game as Northampton continued to dominate. Scott Wharton saw two headers saved and as half-time approached, the Cobblers had already had six efforts on target.
Shortly before the break Exeter had their best chance of the half, as top-scorer Ryan Bowman raced through on goal, but lost his footing at a crucial moment.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Maxted kept his side in the game with two more superb saves - first from Oliver at point-blank range, before denying Goode too.
HALF-TIME: Exeter City 0-2 Northampton Town
Exeter City got the second-half underway, with a mountain to climb. Things went from bad to worse on the hour mark for Matt Taylor’s side as a late tackle from Dean Moxey on Ryan Watson saw him receive a straight red card from the referee. With Northampton’s extra man as well as a two-goal lead, it looked almost impossible for Exeter to find a way back into the game.
On 70 minutes, Morton almost had his second of the game as he was played clean through on goal, but the youngster dragged his shot narrowly wide of the far post.
Minutes later Exeter were appealing for a penalty as Archie Collins went down in the area, but the referee waved away the protests deciding substitute Mark Marshall got the ball.
With ten minutes to play, Northampton made it three. Great work from Morton again set Marshall free down the right, before he unselfishly squared the ball to Hoskins who finished into the bottom corner. Game over.
With promotion all but sealed for the Cobblers, Andy Williams made it four. After being on the pitch less than a minute, the striker flicked the ball home with his first touch just seconds after coming on. The goal came from another well-executed long throw from Goode, which had been a threat all evening.
After four minutes of stoppage time, Northampton secured promotion to League One after just a two-year absence from the third tier. A dominant performance and as impressive a Play-Off Final victory as you could see, Keith Curle has his promotion at last.
FULL-TIME: Exeter City 0-4 Northampton Town
Exeter City: (3-5-2) – Jonny Maxted, Pierce Sweeney (Brennan Dickenson 82’), Aaron Martin, Dean Moxey, Randell Williams, Jake Taylor, Nigel Atangana (Jack Sparkes 61'), Nicky Law, Jayden Richardon (Tom Parkes 51'), Alex Fisher (Archie Collins 52’), Ryan Bowman.
Subs: Lewis Ward, Lee Martin, Matt Jay, , , Nicky Ajose, Ben Seymour
Northampton Town: (3-4-3) – Steve Arnold, Charlie Goode, Jordan Turnbull, Scott Wharton, Michael Harriman, Alan McCormack (James Olayinka 75') Ryan Watson (Paul Anderson 88’), Sam Hoskins, Nicky Adams (Mark Marshall 31’), Vadaine Oliver (Harry Smith 75'), Callum Morton (Andy Williams 88’)
Subs: David Cornell, Joe Martin, Chris Lines, , Matt Warburton,