Chris Iwelumo's 19 goals and 15 by midfielder Neil Danns in the 2005–06 season put both players in the shop window. Danns left for Birmingham in a deal worth an eventual £850,000 whilst Iwelumo welcomed Jamie Cureton on a permanent deal.
Geraint Williams oversaw pre-season training and, after a lengthy recruitment process, was charged with the daunting task of leading United in their first season in the Championship. He employed Mick Harford as his assistant and the pair worked miracles for a club that was now owned by Robbie Cowling, a very successful local businessman.
United entertained Ipswich in the first League derby for 49 years and a Karl Duguid goal gave U's the victory they so dearly aspired to. Parkinson returned with his struggling Hull team in November 2006 and Iwelumo bagged four and a share of the club record as United trounced The Tigers 5–1. Parkinson was sacked five days later whilst United recorded eight home wins on the spin to be in a play-off position by Christmas.
Reading paid a new record £2.5m for England U20s international Greg Halford, but the loss did not affect United too much as they continued to take playing against the likes of Leeds, Sunderland and Birmingham in their stride.
Iwelumo netted an impressive 18 goals but Cureton went even better netting 24 times winning the Championship Golden Boot. Unbelievably, United were just one point off a play-off place with two games to go. Defeat at chief rivals Stoke ended their hopes but the 10th-placed finish was the highest in the club's history making them 30th in the entire Football League.
Gates at Layer Road had risen to 5,466, the highest since 1970/1 with most games sold out, and, the first turf was cut at Cuckoo Farm.