Heilongjiang Lava Spring have retained their position in the second tier of Chinese football after beating Xinjiang Tianshan on penalties.
The northeasternmost club in the league overcome the northwesternmost club after contesting two closely fought legs, which resulted in a 4-4 aggregate score – forcing both into the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
Xinjiang claimed a 3-2 victory in the first leg of the relegation play-off, with Heilongjiang looking all-but-certain to be relegated after going down 1-0 in the first minute of the second leg.
Goals from Mao Kaiyu and Li Shuai either side of the half-time break brought the purple team back into the tie, forcing extra time before both had to decide their fate from the spot.
Heilongjiang were victorious from the dead-ball situation, running out as 5-3 winners when all was said and done, consigning Xinjiang back to China League Two for the first time since their debut season in 2012 – a year in which they finished as runners up and were promoted to the second tier at the first time of asking.
Heilongjiang, meanwhile, will remain in the second tier of the Chinese football pyramid, having come close to earning promotion to the Chinese Super League just one year earlier – when they defeated Changchun Yatai 4-1 on the final day of the 2019 season to secure fourth place.
The 2020 season was disappointing for Heilongjiang, who played large portions of the campaign without their top import players, and struggled overall to find the back of the net.
They will be relieved to have survived this time around but some serious changes will need to be made in order to get the club back to where they were just a year ago, pushing for promotion to the top tier rather than narrowly avoiding the drop down into the third.