Exeter City finished second in League Two after defeat to play-off hopefuls Port Vale.
James Wilson’s goal was enough to seal the game for the visitors, and Forest Green’s draw at Mansfield meant Rovers were crowned champions on goal difference.
City had few chances during the game but can finish the season with their heads held high, knowing they will be playing League One football next year.
Matt Taylor made a double switch from the draw at Northampton. Jake Caprice and Sam Stubbs returned to the side.
In a frantic start, Jevani Brown nearly put City ahead inside two minutes. A Josh Key delivery to the back post was nodded back by Tim Dieng and Jev’s deflected shot went wide.
Matt Jay pulled a shot wide on nine minutes as the Grecians settled into the game.
And the captain was denied a certain opener after quarter of an hour. Jake Caprice put the afterburners on down the left. A cut onto his right foot saw a delicious cross into the middle. MJ’s header was nestling into the corner had it not been from a top stop by Adam Stone.
Jake Caprice almost put City in the lead in freak fashion. Gorgeous interchange meant JC was able to cross. Stone was almost caught out but was relieved to just about tip the ball over.
Vale took the lead against the run of play on 35 minutes. A bouncing ball across the box was tapped back to the former Manchester United striker, who made no mistake in smashing the ball past Cam Dawson.
Cheick Diabate almost restored parity a minute before the break. A Jev Brown free-kick was met by the head of the centre-half only to go wide.
City made a sub at the start of the second period. Sam Stubbs was replaced by Jonathan Grounds.
Sam Nombe was introduced on 55 minutes and allowed Jev Brown to drop into midfield. It almost reaped dividends straight away, as Brown drove through the middle of the park and unleashed a trademark effort. A strong head from Connor Hall the only thing preventing a City equaliser.
News filtered in from elsewhere and City needed to find inspiration. Oz Zanzala forced hesitation in the Vale back line but saw his shot bounce wayward.
Cam Dawson was alert to a bouncing Wilson shot as emotion rung high around SJP. At the other end Caprice’s speculative effort fooled nobody. Both of them.
Wilson flashed one over as Vale looked for a second. Jonathan Grounds whipped a shot wide as four minutes were added.
Exeter City: Dawson, Key, Sweeney, Stubbs (Grounds 46’), Diabate, Caprice, Collins, Dieng, Jay (Nombe 55’), Brown, Zanzala (Amond 70’)
Subs: S. Brown, Sparkes, Kite, Coley
Port Vale: Stone, Gibbons, Hall, Smith, Garrity, Wilson (Harratt 90’), Proctor, Hussey (Benning 27’), Martin, Pett, Edmondson (Taylor 62’)
Subs: Covolan, Worral, Amoo, Robinson,
Referee: Tom Reeves
Attendance: 8,147 (1,314 away)