JOSH Murphy netted a first half Wembley brace to send Oxford United to the second tier of English football for the first time in more than two decades.

The winger has blossomed into the key player in Des Buckingham’s side in recent weeks and months, and showed just why he’s been so influential in a masterful performance in the Sky Bet League One play-off final against Bolton Wanderers.

His first effort took a nick and deflected into the top corner, while the finish for his double was sensational, and enough to seal a place in the second tier for United, for the first time since the 1998/99 campaign.

Buckingham named just the one change to the starting line-up from the side which battled in the semi-final second leg against Peterborough United, as Sam Long was given the nod ahead of Fin Stevens, who dropped to the bench.

The Trotters also made one switch from their semi-final second leg, as Nathanael Ogbeta replaced Randell Williams, who missed out completely after picking up a knock in training.

Both sides used the opening 10 minutes as an exercise to suss each other out, with the first glimmer of goal coming when Cameron Brannagan burst into the penalty box, however the ball wouldn’t sit right for Mark Harris to get a shot away.

Long then put in a solid block to thwart an Ogbeta effort, before Josh Sheehan drifted a shot wide from distance.

Left wing-back Ogbeta overcooked a cross after 22 minutes, with the ball nestling on the roof of Jamie Cumming’s goal.

Ruben Rodrigues threatened at the other end, when he shimmied past his man and then sent a left-footed drive wide of the far post.

Just after the half-hour mark, United nudged in front, the goal coming via a combination of a slice of quality, and a sprinkling of luck.

Murphy collected the ball on the left channel of the penalty area, and cut inside, before arcing a right-footed strike which deflected off Trotters skipper Ricardo Santos and beyond Nathan Baxter in the Bolton goal.

If the opener had an element of fortune, then the brace which came eleven minutes later was pure magic.

Rodrigues deftly played an exquisite ball down the channel for Murphy to run onto, with the U’s danger man seemingly taking the ball too wide with his first touch, however the winger found the net from an acute angle with a delicious effort.

The Trotters were dealt a huge blow four minutes into the second period, when the influential Paris Maghoma was forced off with injury, Kyle Dempsey coming on in his place.

Murphy looked to complete a hat-trick with an audacious free kick out wide on the right, but it dropped a couple of yards the wrong side of the post, before he had a much clearer sight of goal minutes later.

The winger was slid down the middle, where he raced past Gethin Jones on the outside and then deftly stabbed just wide from a tight angle.

It was United’s turn to suffer an injury blow midway through the second half, when Brannagan hit the deck for the second time in a matter of minutes. Marcus McGuane came on in his place.

That happened from a Trotters corner, but the U’s then hit Bolton on the counter-attack, as Murphy had the entire right-hand side to run into, racing clear before being thwarted by Baxter as he closed in on goal.

The officials had a big call to make with 72 minutes played, when Baxter came out of his goal and clattered into Owen Dale on the left edge of his goal. Referee Sam Barrott immediately gave a free kick, rather than a penalty.

Replays suggested the contact was inside the area, however VAR stood by Barrott’s decision.

From the free kick, Joe Bennett fired the ball at Baxter’s near post, with the goalkeeper forced to fist the ball away for a corner.

Josh McEachran replaced Rodrigues with 10 minutes to go, before Murphy nodded wide at the back post from a Long cross.

From then on, plenty of fingernails were bitten, not helped by the addition of nine minutes, but the U’s dug in and held firm in the face of consistent Bolton pressure, to seal a historic afternoon at Wembley.

Oxford United (4-3-3): Cumming; Long, Moore, Brown, Bennett (Leigh 87); Rodrigues (McEachran 80, Brannagan (McGuane 64), Goodrham; Dale, Harris, Murphy.

Unused subs: Eastwood, Stevens, Bodin, Browne.

Booked: Goodrham.

Bolton Wanderers (3-1-4-2): Baxter; Jones, Ricardo Santos, Toal; Thomason; Dacres-Cogley, Maghoma (Dempsey 49), Sheehan (Iredale 65), Ogbeta (Adeboyejo 65); Charles (Jerome 65), Collins.

Unused subs: Coleman, Forrester, Morley.

Booked: Jones, Baxter, Thomason.

Referee: Sam Barrott (West Riding)

Attendance: 70,472