Swansea City’s promotion hopes were dashed at the last as two early goals saw Brentford claim victory at Wembley.
An Ivan Toney penalty and a smart finish from Emiliano Marcondes left Steve Cooper’s side two goals down with barely 20 minutes played in the play-off final.
The Swans responded well, Andre Ayew hitting the bar and heading a great chance wide, but when Jay Fulton was sent off with 25 minutes to go a tough task was beyond them.
It was a sad way for the campaign to end, with the season – unique in being played almost entirely without supporters and amidst an unprecedented demanding schedule – having provided so many moments to savour.
Cooper’s side had been in the promotion hunt from the off when they won at Preston on the opening weekend, claiming numerous notable scalps on the way.
A number of pre-season predictions had not had the Swans as play-off – let along automatic promotion – contenders but they defied those naysayers only to fall at the final hurdle.
There had been one change to the Swansea side as Connor Roberts came in for Wayne Routledge following the winger’s injury in the second leg against Barnsley.
His absence saw Kieron Freeman named among the substitutes for the showpiece occasion.
Even though the stadium was barely a tenth full – and it was a huge shame clearance was not given for greater numbers to attend – there was still a fantastic atmosphere inside Wembley in the build-up to kick-off.
Kev Johns led the Jack Army with passion and verve, and they responded magnificently and vocally.
The start was predictably frantic and frenetic with so much on the line, but it was Brentford who got the first big opportunity when Sergi Canos’ pass picked out Bryan Mbuemo’s run and the striker beat Freddie Woodman to the ball and was brought down.
Chris Kavanagh pointed to the spot, and Toney kept his nerve to find the bottom corner of the net.
It was an early blow and it took the Swans a little while to find their feet after the setback, and it got worse when they were picked off on a counter-attack.
Ayew was dispossessed in the Brentford area from a long throw and the Bees sprung forward through Mbuemo.
He fed the ball on to Canos, and he waited for his moment before picking out Marcondes, who volleyed home at the far post in the 20th minute.
It was nearly 3-0 seconds later as Toney’s dipping volley from the edge of the area beat Woodman, but bounced down and away from goal off the underside of the crossbar.
Swansea desperately needed a foothold in the game, and they did begin to enjoy a greater share of territory and possession.
A clever ball from Matt Grimes nearly sent Roberts in on goal with Brentford just about scrambling to deny him a shot on goal.
A clever quick throw from Conor Hourihane then freed Roberts again, with his pull-back just too high for Jamal Lowe.
Swansea were in the ascendancy but were unable to seriously work David Raya in the Brentford goal.
Fulton then had a shot blocked after a quick switch of play from the busy Hourihane, while there was a let-off at the other end as Mbuemo fired weakly at goal after Marc Guehi had left his header short of keeper Woodman.
The Swans best opportunity came just before the interval as Ayew beat Raya to a Hourihane free-kick and his header landed on top of the crossbar.
It meant the Swans trailed to those two early goals at the break and had it all to do but they remained on the front foot early in the second half.
And they created their best chance yet as Ayew just failed to make meaningful contact with a diving header from a Roberts cross.
Lowe then spun away from his marker on the touchline to drive towards goal, but his shot from the edge of the area was over the target.
The Swans kept coming, Lowe curling wide on the turn after Roberts and Kyle Naughton had linked well on the right.
Cooper sent on Liam Cullen for Naughton on the hour mark knowing his side needed a goal to try and set up a nervy finale for their opponents.
Yan Dhanda soon followed for Hourihane but the Swans hopes of a comeback were dented when Fulton was shown a straight red card for his challenge on Mathias Jensen.
Jake Bidwell made a superb block to deny Toney a second of the afternoon as Brentford made use of the numerical advantage to stretch the Swans.
It just about kept Swansea hopes alive but, ultimately, Brentford were able to complete the victory as the final whistle brought only heartache for those in Swans colours.
Swansea City: Freddie Woodman; Kyle Naughton (Liam Cullen 60), Ben Cabango, Marc Guehi,; Connor Roberts, Jay Fulton, Matt Grimes (captain), Conor Hourihane (Yan Dhanda 63), Jake Bidwell (Ryan Manning 82); Andre Ayew, Jamal Lowe.
Unused Substitutes: Ben Hamer, Ryan Bennett, Joel Latibeaudiere, Korey Smith, Morgan Whittaker.
Brentford: David Raya, Henrik Dalsgaard, Pontus Jansson (Winston Reid 79), Ethan Pinnock, Mads Roerslev, Vitaly Janelt (Saman Ghoddos 73), Mathias Jensen, Emiliano Marcondes Mads Bistrup 90), Sergi Canos (Marcus Forss 73), Bryan Mbuemo, Ivan Toney.
Unused Substitutes: Luke Daniels, Charlie Goode, Christian Norgaard, Tariqe Fosu, Fin Stevens.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh