Lewes lost 3-2 to an injury time goal at home to Bury Town on Saturday – but stayed up on goal difference at the expense of Carshalton Athletic.
The Rooks had come from two goals down to draw level for the second time in four days, but this time didn’t secure the draw as John Sands scored a stoppage time winner for the Blues.
However, it mattered little as Carshalton could only win 2-1 at Enfield Town. With Lewes losing by just the one goal, the Robins would have needed to secure victory by a six-goal margin to stay up.
As it turned out, Nathan Crabb’s dramatic equaliser in the fourth minute of injury time at Cray Wanderers on Tuesday night had made all the difference in securing Lewes’ safety.
The Rooks finished 20th out of 22 in the division (with 40 points from their 42 games and a goal difference of minus 16), with only two clubs going down this season. They were Carshalton, with 40 points and goal difference of minus 21 from their 42 games, and Sussex rivals Hastings, who finished bottom with 39 points as their memorable season that featured an FA Cup third round tie at Middlesbrough ended in a miserbale low (the Arrows already knew their fate having lost to play-off chasing East Thurrock United on Thursday evening).
As for the match with Bury, Lewes found themselves 2-0 down again (after coming back from that scoreline to draw 2-2 at Cray) thanks to first half goals from Evan Key, on 28 minutes, and a Craig Parker penalty four minutes later. The penalty came in controversial circumstances as Lewes felt Parker had been offside in the build up to the award of the spot kick.
But the Rooks fought back in the second half to again pull the score back to 2-2. First Steve Brinkhurst converted a Crabb cross on 51 minutes, then Callum Dunne levelled matters with a superb effort with 13 minutes left,
Sands then won it for the visitors when he forced home past keeper Kieron Thorp in time added on, but by then the Rooks fans in an impressive Dripping Pan crowd of 816 knew they were safe.
The late Bury goal denied the Rooks the chance to leapfrog Thurrock into 19th in the final Ryman Premier table – but all that mattered was they had finished above Carshalton and will be playing Ryman Premier football again next season.
Nathan Crabb was awarded Player of the Season on the pitch after the game.