THE contrast could not have been starker.

At one end, the exuberance and excitement of a last-day escape from relegation.

At the other, an embarrassed group of players shuffled along in front of half-empty stands to the scorn of those who had bothered to stick around.

There was some applause during City’s lap of appreciation; but it was intermingled with boos from many in the Kop.

With the games finally gone, this was the poison being drawn out of this most unpleasant of seasons.

This was the Game of Thrones-style walk of shame for a squad whose only consistency was to constantly let a proud fanbase down.

It was a cathartic moment for those whose hopes had regularly been shattered by the fourth-best paid group in the division.

Gary Bowyer probably felt the same since he took over. His pointed remarks afterwards about never wanting to feel this way again would have been shared by everyone with claret and amber in the blood.

Meanwhile, the pitch-side party at the Bradford end was in full swing.

Wimbledon exorcised the ghosts of 2000, when City beat the Premiership drop at their expense, to complete the most remarkable of escape acts.

A side 10 points bottom in mid-February had hauled their heads above water to finish on a seven-match unbeaten run.

They had dug deep to find a fighting spirit that was sadly alien to their hosts, whose meek acceptance of relegation on Good Friday reinforced the feeling that they truly weren’t that bothered.

Even the final home game, a date always so sensitive to the Bantams calendar, was treated like an end-of-season knockabout.

City might have had two-thirds of the possession – it was a staggering 75 per cent at half-time – but they could have played on until Thursday and still not scored.

Everything was in front of the visitors who comfortably held them at arm’s length as the dour stalemate dragged on.

A Wimbledon winner from the returning James Hanson would have been the romantic finale; a delicious post script on the Edin Rahic reign from the player he had been so keen to get rid of.

But the visitors did not need an ambitious game plan. They came for the point they needed and could not have wished for an easier route to getting it.

“We are the team that came from nowhere” chanted the 2,000-strong following from south London.

That is the destination for City now, starting at the bottom once again with a return to League Two after six years away.

The question now is how many of these under-performers will still be here to see it.

Bowyer has arranged a session of exit-interviews on Tuesday; don’t expect much sugar-coating.

It would be a major surprise if most of the deals from last summer do not contain relegation clauses. Rumour has it that many of the bigger hitters will see their pay packets reduce by a quarter.

That may help to grease the wheels of moving on those still in contract as Bowyer prepares for a fresh challenge with an untainted team behind him.

Some will feel they should be playing at a higher level come August; the sight of Sean Scannell hanging back from the rest to wave to supporters on his own had the air of saying goodbye.

He could be exempt from most of the criticism flying City’s way, simply by the fact that he had spent six months out of action. When finally back on the pitch, he did show some moments of inspiration that promised of what might have been.

But the more positive feedback from those supporters who had opted to stick around until the bitter end was reserved for Lewis O’Brien.

Bowyer had fittingly given the youngster his moment in the limelight with a late substitution, allowing the fans to get to their feet to salute the one player who can look himself in the mirror and know that he really tried.

The only other time those supporters were moved to leave their seats was in the 56th minute when Valley Parade broke into spontaneous applause to remember the victims of the fire.

The minute’s silence before kick-off had been as impeccably observed as ever; this was a further opportunity to pay their respects for an event that will always put a mere football match into perspective.

And as the clapping died down, the chorus began from deep inside the Kop: “City til I die, I’m City til I die.”

A haunting anthem to remind what purported to be their team that the true Bradford City are not those lumbering around the pitch but the thousands of young and old who have this club in their hearts.

These are the people who have snapped up a crazy number of season-tickets already to watch City begin all over again.

These are the ones that will inspire Bowyer to put in the long hours through the summer to assemble a squad that they can once more be proud of.

It hardly came as a surprise that they were once more given little to get excited about on Saturday. Why should the last day be any different to so many that have gone before?

Kelvin Mellor, one who will have a role to play in the rebuild, tested Wimbledon keeper Aaron Ramsdale early on. Then his long throw was flicked on by Paudie O’Connor and Eoin Doyle stabbed wide.

But the closest chance to a goal came from the visitors in the second half, League One player of the month Joe Pigott clipping the foot of the post before Ben Wilson blocked Anthony Hartigan’s follow-up.

And that was pretty much it.

Three managers, 27 defeats, just 11 wins – season 2018/2019 has plunged to new depths. But most importantly, the support remains unwavering.