Ahead of the final day, many Köln fans may have been dreaming of staying up, but many acknowledged the reality that they probably would be accompanying Schalke 04 to the second tier of German football.
Köln went into the final day knowing that they would have to be victorious over relegated Schalke to escape the automatic relegation place that they occupied.
The final day was filled with drama.
Werder Bremen were the team that prior to kick-off occupied the relegation play off place, but they lost 4-2 at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach. While Werder Bremen were facing defeat to Mönchengladbach, Arminia Bielefeld were beating Stuttgart, which meant that Köln would not be able to escape to safety altogether, but they could cling on by their fingertips and earn a shot at redemption through the relegation play-off. They just needed to beat Schalke.
When Sebastian Andersson poked home Jonas Hector’s free kick in the 71st minute, there was relief for the Köln players, however that was to be short lived because a VAR check determined there was an offside, and Köln would have to reset and search for the winner once more.
Then in the 86th minute a second chance was earned, when Jan Thielmann floated a ball to the back post for Sebastiaan Bornauw to head home his first goal of the season. It was a goal that saved Köln and relegated Werder Bremen.
The story was not over though, as they still had to battle through a relegation play-off against Holstein Kiel.
The first leg saw disappointment as they welcomed Holstein Kiel to the RheinEnergieStadion. Köln played below the level required and suffered a 1-0 defeat, meaning they had conceded a crucial away goal. It seemed their final day heroics were now a distant memory, and they would be joining Werder Bremen and Schalke in relegation to the 2. Bundesliga.
Köln travelled to the Holstein Stadion where they knew to claw themselves to safety they would have to win.
The game got off to a ferocious start. In the 2nd minute Ondrej Duda managed to work some space to deliver a cross from the Köln left. The cross was met by a wonderful header from one club man Jonas Hector. Within two minutes Köln had restored parity to the tie.
That was not to last long though. Just over a minute later Holstein Kiel would draw level on the day and go ahead on aggregate. Fabian Reese managed to cut the ball back to Finn Porath who fired the ball goal bound, but was thwarted by a sprawling Timo Horn, however the rebound was headed into the empty net by Jae-sung Lee.
The high paced start to the game was not yet over. In the 6th minute, another wonderful delivery from the left-hand side managed to reach the head of Sebastian Anderrson who gave Ioannis Gelios no chance. Köln were 2-1 up on the day and the score was 2-2 on aggregate, though Köln had the away goal advantage.
There were still more goals to come. The Köln left was again crucial in the third goal. A nicely worked short corner was curled right footed into the box and was met once again by Andersson. The header was straight at Gelios in the Kiel goal, but he could only palm it sideways onto Reese who was on the post and unable to prevent the goal.
Kiel would now need two goals to earn promotion. In the 39th minute their promotion dreams were shattered, and Köln’s Bundesliga safety was all but secured when Rafael Czichos met a knockdown on the edge of the box with a thunderous half volley which rifled into the top corner. Köln were effectively safe, with a 4-2 aggregate lead at half-time.
The second half was less eventful, but in the 84th minute Köln placed the icing on their celebratory cake when Ellyes Skhiri ran onto the ball just inside the box and blasted it into the Kiel net to spark wild scenes of celebration and to seal a dramatic escape from relegation.
Once the celebrations have settled, Köln will have to reset and rebuild to avoid the fate of last years play-off survivors, Werder Bremen.