Match ends, Swansea City 1, Brentford 0.
Andre Ayew's thumping half-volley saw Swansea City seize the initiative in their Championship play-off semi-final against 10-man Brentford.
Swansea will take a 1-0 lead into Wednesday's second leg at Griffin Park after Ayew lashed home eight minutes from the end to give the hosts an advantage they will feel they deserve after controlling the second half.
Ayew ran towards the home dugout to celebrate his 18th goal of the season, which came just 16 minutes after he had seen a penalty saved.
Brentford were the better side in the first period, when Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma both missed good opportunities to put them in control.
But the hosts came into the contest after the break, with Brentford's cause not helped when Rico Henry was dismissed for a lunging challenge on Connor Roberts on 65 minutes.
Swansea, who only sealed a top-six spot in the dying minutes of the regular season, continued their surge into promotion contention as Brentford suffered a third successive defeat.
Brentford's poor run continues
There was pain in Griffin Park's home dressing room in the wake of defeat by Barnsley in the 116-year-old ground's last regular-season game.
In a division where consistency is notoriously hard to find, Brentford had conjured a supreme run of post-lockdown form to catapult themselves into automatic promotion contention.
But after eight successive victories, Thomas Frank's side stumbled with the finishing line in sight.
They missed two opportunities to climb into the top two as they lost to two teams fighting against relegation, Stoke City and then Barnsley on the final day.
Frank told his players to clear their minds and focus on a second opportunity to reach the Premier League.
They responded in the opening stages, pressing high and knocking Swansea out of their stride.
Benrahma headed the first chance of the contest wide before Watkins' back-header forced a diving stop from Erwin Mulder.
Watkins, the Championship's second top scorer in 2019-20 with 25 goals, then powered a header the wrong side of the far post from Henry's inviting cross.
Swansea improved as the first half wore on, yet Brentford's best chance came just before the break when Benrahma burst away from Jay Fulton and round Mike van der Hoorn before lifting his shot narrowly over the bar.
The Championship's most potent attack had not taken their opportunities, and another chance came and went soon after the break as Mathias Jensen dragged a shot wide.
From that point on, Brentford were on the back foot.
They showed resilience, particularly after Henry was shown a straight red card for a strong challenge on Roberts, only to be breached late on.
Once again, Frank must ask his players to dig deep and find a response if they are to reach Wembley.
Swans finishing with a flourish
Swansea were three points adrift of the play-offs in 11th when football was suspended because of coronavirus in March.
They then took 17 points from their last nine games to climb into the play-off places for the first time since January in the final throes of the final day. Talk about timing.
The Swans had seemed destined for the departure lounge with 25 minutes of their game at Reading remaining, but three late goals and a similar flurry for Stoke at Nottingham Forest saw Cooper's side send their campaign into overtime.
Brentford finished 11 points and three places ahead of Swansea in the regular season, and had a goal difference of +42 compared to +9.
They also beat Swansea comfortably in both league meetings, so Cooper's players might have anticipated the stern examination they got in the first period.
Swansea's 3-4-1-2 formation had carried them to sixth place, but too often here they could not find space to play.
Nevertheless they had chances, with Rhian Brewster drilling too close to Brentford keeper David Raya after a sweet touch from Conor Gallagher.
From a Gallagher corner, Ayew glanced a header on to the post and Brewster - who was not flagged despite appearing to be offside - nodded the rebound straight at Raya.
Swansea were asking questions again early in the second half, with Ayew heading too close to Raya before a fine breakaway ended with the Ghanaian curling a shot wide.
The penalty came on 63 minutes, when Ayew fed Brewster and the on-loan Liverpool forward went down as Pontus Jansson dangled out a leg.
Ayew has been faultless from the spot this season but at this crucial stage he was denied, with Raya guessing right and reaching high to paw the spot-kick to safety.
Swansea kept pushing, with Henry's early exit adding to their momentum.
Gallagher flicked cleverly to Fulton, who touched the ball down for Ayew to make amends for the penalty miss with a fierce drive which flashed past Raya and inside the near post.
Swansea head coach Steve Cooper:
"I am satisfied with tonight. We knew Brentford are a good team. I thought the first half was a bit edgy, quite tactical. They did some things we had to manage at half-time.
"Both teams had good chances to score, which you would expect because we have both got dangerous players.
"Second half we had the penalty saved and the red card, then it was a bit of a different game.
"I thought it was a clear penalty. I haven't seen the second (appeal) on Rhian when he got booked for diving, but my analysts thought there was a good shout for a penalty there.
"The red card, you can't do that nowadays. You can't be as excessive as that, as dangerous as that, whether there is a touch on the ball or not, and expect to stay on the pitch. Times have changed. The only positive was that Connor got up because I really feared for him."
Brentford head coach Thomas Frank:
"I'm very proud of my players. It showed top personality from the first second.
"We had two minor setbacks but we dominated the game and I think we were the best team.
"The red card changed the game. After that, they worked so hard and showed top togetherness. We only gave one chance away, one bit of brilliance from Ayew."
- 44CabangoBooked at 55mins
- 5van der Hoorn
- 24BidwellBooked at 18mins
- 22A Ayew
- 19BrewsterBooked at 78mins
- 22DalsgaardBooked at 47mins
- 3HenryBooked at 65mins
- 8JensenBooked at 45minsSubstituted forBaptisteat 85'minutes
- 6NørgaardBooked at 90mins
- 14DasilvaSubstituted forRasmussenat 70'minutes
- 19MbeumoSubstituted forMarcondesat 70'minutes
- 10BenrahmaSubstituted forValencia Castilloat 85'minutes
- 16Valencia Castillo
- Keith Stroud
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Swansea City 1, Brentford 0.
Attempt blocked. Ollie Watkins (Brentford) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is blocked.
Attempt blocked. Ollie Watkins (Brentford) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is blocked. Assisted by Emiliano Marcondes with a cross.
Christian Nørgaard (Brentford) is shown the yellow card.
Matt Grimes (Swansea City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Christian Nørgaard (Brentford).
Foul by Matt Grimes (Swansea City).
Henrik Dalsgaard (Brentford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Brentford. Shandon Baptiste replaces Mathias Jensen.
Substitution, Brentford. César Joel Valencia Castillo replaces Saïd Benrahma.
Goal! Swansea City 1, Brentford 0. André Ayew (Swansea City) left footed shot from the right side of the box to the top right corner. Assisted by Jay Fulton.
Attempt missed. Matt Grimes (Swansea City) left footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Marc Guehi.
Rhian Brewster (Swansea City) is shown the yellow card.
Rhian Brewster (Swansea City) has gone down, but the referee deems it simulation.
Attempt missed. Marc Guehi (Swansea City) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Jake Bidwell.
Attempt missed. Conor Gallagher (Swansea City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Jay Fulton.
Attempt saved. Conor Gallagher (Swansea City) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Substitution, Brentford. Emiliano Marcondes replaces Bryan Mbeumo.
Substitution, Brentford. Mads Roerslev Rasmussen replaces Josh Dasilva.