(Reuters) - Torquay United goalkeeper Lucas Covolan scored a late equaliser to keep them in the National League playoff final on Sunday but his efforts proved fruitless as Hartlepool United won a penalty shootout to secure a return to the English Football League.
Midfielder Matt Buse missed the decisive kick for Torquay as Hartlepool edged the shootout 5-4 to return to League Two after a four-year absence.
Luke Armstrong's first-half opener for Hartlepool was cancelled out by a spectacular stoppage-time header from Torquay keeper Covolan to force extra time at Ashton Gate.
Covlan advanced upfield when his side won a throw 30 yards from goal and beat his opposite number to the ball to score, sending Torquay fans wild.
The opening four penalties in the shootout were missed and Buse was denied by a fingertip save from Pool goalkeeper Brad James as Dave Challinor's side secured a place in League Two alongside National League champions Sutton United in League Two.
"A rollercoaster of emotions. We thought it was gone (at fulltime)," James told BT Sport. "But the lads worked hard. It's gone to penalties and I just went the right way.
"I knew if I saved it we win it. I just committed that way, I don't know what happened after that."
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)