Even though the Premier League finale produced oscillating fortunes in the chase for the Champions League, a chaotic season ended fairly predictably on Sunday.
Liverpool and Chelsea squeezed out Leicester City to secure top-four finishes that seemed out of reach at times in a pandemic-compressed season that stretched squads to the limit.
Chelsea could even afford to lose 2-1 at Aston Villa and still take fourth after Leicester were beaten 4-2 by Tottenham Hotspur.
"There are no celebrations now around the dressing room," Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said.
"It's a big relief."
Jumping into third was a triumph reflecting Liverpool's readjusted targets in a season of struggles and injuries after surrendering the trophy to Manchester City, while Manchester United was runner-up.
"From nowhere to the Champions League in five weeks - that's a massive achievement," Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said after Sadio Mane's goals clinched a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
"I'm really happy for the Champions League they don't have to play without us."
That sentiment wasn't evident a month ago when Liverpool and the rest of the eventual top-four finishers were part of a hastily abandoned bid to split from the UEFA competition to launch a breakaway Super League.
Arsenal missed out on qualifying for Europe completely with a second successive eighth-place finish despite beating Brighton & Hove Albion 2-0 and Tottenham will have to settle with contesting the new third-tier Europa Conference League after taking seventh.
Leicester spent more days in the top four than any other team before dropping out after losing to Chelsea in the penultimate round.
Ultimately those 242 days counted for nothing after surrendering the lead to Spurs when a victory would have dislodged Chelsea.
At least Europa League-bound Leicester got to parade a trophy on the pitch after winning its first FA Cup last weekend.
The day's biggest celebrations were in Manchester where City received the Premier League trophy for the fifth time in 10 seasons after signing off in style with a 5-0 win over Everton.
Fittingly, Sergio Aguero scored twice as a substitute after the striker came off the bench for his farewell game at the Etihad Stadium.
The Argentine netted the stoppage-time goal on the final day in 2012 that clinched the first of City's Premier League titles.
Runners-up Manchester United ended the domestic season with a 2-1 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers to finish 12 points adrift of City.
Harry Kane netted his 23rd goal of the season in Tottenham's win at Leicester to finish as the league's top scorer, one ahead of Liverpool's Mohamed Salah.
It could be Kane's last goal for Spurs with his future uncertain after winning the league's Golden Boot for a third time - on top of a league-leading 14 assists.
Joining Leicester in the Europa League will be West Ham United, who trumped Southampton 3-0 to seal sixth - their highest finish since 1999.
The three relegation spots were already resolved.
Fulham bowed out with a 2-0 loss to Newcastle United, while West Bromwich Albion lost 3-1 at Leeds and bottom side Sheffield United beat Burnley 1-0.