How much the fans long for the return of Hamburger SV to the big football stage was demonstrated to the players and their coach Tim Walter on the return trip from the Baltic Sea coast.
A few supporters in jerseys and with a large diamond flag stood on a motorway bridge over the A1 on Sunday evening, waved their scarves and cheered the blue team bus as it drove under the bridge.
After successfully defending third place through the difficult 3-2 win at Hansa Rostock, HSV only has to survive two more acts to finally be part of the Bundesliga 18 ensemble again and present their audience with top-flight pieces in the Volksparkstadion.
"We really deserved the two bonus games," said Walter about the relegation games against the Bundesliga-16.
Walter announced that he would go through with this crucial week.
The celebrations after the final whistle in Rostock were correspondingly short.
Days off are cancelled.
Concentration is already on the first leg on Thursday (8.30 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the Bundesliga and on Sky and Sat.1) in Berlin.
Next Monday (8.30 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the Bundesliga as well as on Sky and Sat.1) the promotion party is to take place in the Volksparkstadion, which will then be sold out with 57,000 spectators.
Magath: "It's all about Hertha BSC"
"Our chances in the relegation are there, but Hertha is the Bundesliga club and has a lot of individual quality.
Still, we can do it!” said goalscorer Robert Glatzel.
Sport director Jonas Boldt is convinced: "Now we have two cup games and we have shown this season that we can accept them."
The fact that Felix Magath of all people stands in the way of the end of the four-year HSV second division is something for nostalgics in particular.
But the HSV idol from the glory days of the 70s and 80s can certainly hurt his former club as a Hertha coach.
The 68-year-old, on the other hand, sees the duel soberly.
"HSV, that's completely out of the question, is the biggest part of my footballing life," he told "Kicker" on Sunday.
But that doesn't matter at all for these two encounters.
"It's still not about me or my past with HSV.
It's all about Hertha BSC - staying up in the league."
The Berliners go into the playoffs with the bad feeling of a draw and two defeats in a row.
In a final spurt with five wins in five games, Hamburg earned the right to extend the season and are accordingly self-confident - even if the first half in Rostock and the 0-1 deficit left doubts about their suitability for the top division.
"It's really indescribable.
We kept falling down, but we also got up again and again,” said Glatzel, looking at the effort after the break.
HSV is already familiar with elimination games for the last first division starting place - but always as Bundesliga 16th: In 2014 the Hamburg team beat SpVgg Greuther Fürth, third in the second division, with two draws.
A year later they had to win against Karlsruher SC in extra time to avoid relegation.
Now is the time to make the climb.
The jubilation would certainly be a lot bigger than on a bridge on the A1.Keywords: