Leigh captain Micky Higham described the achievement as one of the best of his career after helping his home-town club clinch a return to Super League.
The Centurions gained a 48-40 win over Huddersfield to maintain their 100 cent record in the Super 8s Qualifiers and secure automatic promotion, condemning their opponents to a fight for survival.
Huddersfield coach Rick Stone apologised to the travelling fans after watching his side concede 42 points before half-time, but there was unbridled joy for Higham, the former England, Wigan, St Helens and Warrington hooker who returned to Leigh 16 months ago.
“I’m still a bit emotional,” Higham said. “It’s right up there with all I’ve achieved in my career. I watched Leigh as a kid and to live the dream and captain my home-town team into Super League is a special moment. I am absolutely ecstatic.”
Saturday’s victory, which maintained the Centurions’ unbeaten record at Leigh Sports Village, was especially sweet for head coach Neil Jukes, who took over from Paul Rowley on the eve of the season and suffered a surprise defeat at Batley in his first game.
“It’s just brilliant,” Jukes said. “It’s crazy, isn’t it?
“Who would have said after five games we’d be up without having to go into the Million Pound Game. Who knows, we could even go on and win it, which would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it?”
Leigh never looked back after scoring three tries in the first 12 minutes. Former Huddersfield winger Matty Dawson scored a first-half hat-trick and stand-off Martyn Ridyard ended the game with a personal haul of 24 points to earn the man-of-the-match award.
Trailing 48-10 after 50 minutes, Huddersfield produced a spirited rally, scoring 30 points in 24 minutes, but they had left themselves too much to do after a shambolic first-half display.
Jukes added: “My last words before we went out, I told them it had to be their best game in a Leigh shirt and from one to 17 they did.
“In the second half, the momentum was always going to change, but what we got was the gutsiest performance we’ve ever had. To put 40 points on Huddersfield in the first half was electric. We did enough in that first half to win the game.”
Huddersfield’s defeat also ensured that Leeds will be in Super League in 2017, while the Giants will still avoid the Million Pound Game if they win their two remaining games, at home to Leeds next Sunday and at Hull KR in a fortnight.