There was no mass exodus from the away section, as the sad circumstances surely warranted, when Derby’s Championship relegation fate was finally confirmed.
The TV cameras even struggled to pick up the usual heartbroken fans in uncontrollable tears.
Instead those who had traveled in hope and occupied one end of the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium stood as one, proud and defiant, applauding long and hard Wayne Rooney and his players who had given everything to try and keep Derby in the Championship against the odds and just come up shorts.
Derby have been relegated from the Championship following their defeat to QPR
Wayne Rooney’s side looked like they might fight another day before late drama
Luke Amos scored a late 88th minute winner for QPR – though Derby were not yet down
But Reading fought from 4-1 down against Swansea to get a draw in the fifth minute of stoppage time after second-half goals from Tom Ince, Lucas Joao and Tom McIntyre
QPR: Westwood, Odubajo (Kakay 58), Sanderson, Dunne, McCallum, Field, Dozzell (Johansen 75, Thomas (Austin 70), Amos, Chair, Dykes
Unused subs: Ball, Gray, Adomah, Mahoney
Goal: Amos 88
Booked: Dozzell, Field
Derby: Allsop, Byrne, Davies, Cashin, Buchanan (Cybulski 85), Bielik (Morrison 63), Thompson, Ebiowei, Lawrence, Knight (Sibley 75), Plange
Unused subs: Forsyth, Stearman, Roos, Watson
Sent off: Lawrence (second yellow)
Referee: Josh Smith (Lincolnshire)
In the end, the mountain they were asked to climb to stay in the second tier was simply too high.
The final nail was hammered into their coffin in a fashion as cruel as some of the events that have been dumped on Derby this season and left them staring at the drop.
Luke Amos’s late winner condemned Derby to defeat, the goal coming just as, in keeping with their season, Rooney’s side were pushing for a winner themselves and heroically refusing to go down without a fight.
But it was Reading’s remarkable comeback from 4-1 down against Swansea and sealed with a 95th minute equalizer that was ultimately the result that consigned Derby to relegation.
The Rams will return to the third tier for the first time since 1986, a level they have played at for only four seasons in their entire history.
It has taken a mammoth effort in the face of extreme adversity from Derby to try and preserve their Championship status.
The 21 point deduction for breaching EFL rules and going into administration did for them.
The loss of key players, snatched away from a helpless Rooney against his wishes, made his task even tougher, if that was even possible.
George Thomas of QPR battles with Lee Buchanan for possession in the Championship clash
Derby defender Curtis Davies required medical treatment but was able to continue
Continued and long-running ownership issues only added further uncertainty.
Against that backdrop it was a near-miracle that Derby made it this far, still in with a shot of survival with four games left to play.
Hence the emotional full-time scenes when the former England captain and his squad went over to thank their supporters.
Hence the resigned raising of his eyebrows and shrug of his shoulders as Rooney walked off the pitch at QPR. This was merely the outcome everyone expected.
It is testament to Rooney and his squad that it took so long for those who had written Derby off many months ago to be proved right.
Rooney said: ‘I’m proud. Yes we’ve been relegated but I’ve never seen a team get relegated and the reaction of the fans be like that. I thought it was amazing. The support the fans have given the lads all season so yes of course, disappointed, sad, upset but proud.
Jason Knight reacts after he is crowded from behind by QPR right-back Moses Odubajo
‘I feel for the players. We’ve picked up 52 points and we’d be safe in normal circumstances. We’ve paid the price for what the previous owner has left behind. And I’m sure it’s a sad day for him as well because I know Mel [Morris] is a Derby fan.’
Rooney insisted pre-match he did not care about the result in the Reading game and had no idea about the rollercoaster that had unfolded at the Madejski Stadium until after the final whistle at QPR.
Despite all the distractions, Rooney’s laser-like focus has not shifted from Derby.
It remained that way to the bitter end and, as he has done all season, he also gave the club hope too, that he is prepared to stick around.
Mark Warburton’s QPR side kept their slim hopes of reaching the play-offs alive with the win
With US businessman Chris Kirchner preparing to complete his takeover, Rooney added: ‘In some ways we can draw a line under everything that’s happened and really start the rebirth of this club and try and move this club forward.
‘We need the takeover to happen and that needs to happen quick. The quicker that can happen, the quicker we can start trying to develop the squad, bring players in and see if we can get this club back up. If the takeover doesn’t happen I really fear for the club and where it will end up.
‘The club’s future is in doubt if that doesn’t happen. My future is in doubt if that doesn’t happen so it has to.
‘If it happens I want to be part of the club. This is a special club. We’re all proud to be here and I want to be the one to try and bring those happy days back.’
Rooney and his players applaud the visiting support after hearing the news of their relegation
Derby will play in the third tier of English football next season for the first time in 36 years