(Reuters) - Burnley returned to the Premier League at the first attempt with a 1-0 home win over Queens Park Rangers securing promotion from the Championship and a minimum 100 million pounds windfall on Monday.
Brighton & Hove Albion’s earlier 1-1 draw with Derby County meant Burnley could go up with a game to spare with victory over QPR and they achieved it through a Sam Vokes header on the hour.
The Lancashire club, relegated last year, have 90 points, two more than Brighton and Middlesbrough who meet next weekend to decide who takes the second automatic promotion spot.
A new three-year domestic TV rights deal for the Premier League worth 5.14 billion pounds kicks in next season meaning promotion to the top flight has never been more lucrative.
Even finishing bottom next season will be worth 100 million pounds with so-called parachute payments over subsequent seasons estimated to double that total.
With so much at stake there was a tense atmosphere at Turf Moor on Monday and little between the sides in the first half.
But Vokes broke the deadlock when his flicked near-post header from David Jones’s free kick flashed into the net.
Alejandro Faurlin struck the post for the visitors but Burnley, unbeaten in 22 league games, held firm.
“That was well off our performance level but the result was all that mattered today,” Burnley boss Sean Dyche said.
“The resilience, belief and character got us through. You can’t be brilliant every week, we don’t think we’re the real deal, but we’re a real group that sticks together.”
Middlesbrough’s goal difference is marginally superior to Brighton’s meaning a draw would be enough for the north-east club to go up to the top flight.
The team that finishes third in one of the tightest promotion battles in years enters the playoffs with Hull City, Derby and Sheffield Wednesday.
Writing by Martyn Herman, Editing by Ken Ferris