The Greatest Last-Day Relegation Escapes in Premier League History
Since its inception in 1992, the FA Premier League has provided countless games of high drama, entertainment, joy and despair.
The self-titled “Greatest league in the world” has been a bastion of quality, excitement, controversy and emotion with the drama at the bottom of the table often proving more alluring than events at the top.
Staying in the Premier League is the main priority for every club that starts out each campaign, with the vast riches and global profile offered by the competition meaning failure to do so could signal financial disaster for previously well-run clubs.
And so it has proved, with the likes of Portsmouth and Leeds United’s dramatic fall from grace illustrating how perilous relegation can be for a club.
Read on for a recap of some of the more dramatic last-day relegation escapes of the Premier League era.
6. Wigan Athletic: 2011/12
Not quite the last day, but Wigan Athletic’s survival in the 2011/12 season deserves a mention for the heroics Roberto Martinez’s side performed en route to securing their safety with one game to spare.
The Latics had endured a dismal season and were rooted to the foot of the table when they shocked Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield on March 24th. That result prompted the most spectacular of revivals as Wigan went on to win six of their final eight games, including victories over Manchester United and Arsenal, as they jumped out of the bottom three in considerable style.
The Guardian's Andy Hunter described the high drama of their shock win over United, by saying:
By Phil Dowd's final whistle, with Phil Jones deployed as an emergency centre-forward with a short fuse, Wayne Rooney stewing on the bench and the Wigan chairman Dave Whelan conducting an impromptu radio interview in the press box, football's chaos theory had prevailed once more. Two Robertos, Martínez and Mancini, had renewed hope.
So dramatic was their upturn in form, they finished seven points clear of the drop zone, with Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers dropping into the Championship.
5. West Ham United: 2006/07
There can hardly be a tougher assignment in football than having to go to Old Trafford and beat Manchester United to guarantee your place in the Barclays Premier League.
But that is exactly what Alan Curbishley’s West Ham did in 2006/07 as a run of six wins in eight games to set up a tantalising finale at the Theatre of Dreams.
Alex Ferguson’s men had already been crowned champions, but that didn’t make the Hammers’ task any less daunting for a West Ham side who were a massive 10 points behind 17th-placed Manchester City in early March.
However, wins over Arsenal, Everton, Wigan Athletic and Bolton Wanderers handed the Londoners the keys to their own destiny, and Carlos Tevez’s goal clinched a sensational win, and survival, for the battling Hammers.
Indeed, Tevez scored six goals in the last nine games and will forever be remembered for his brief but significant role in maintaining the club’s Premier League status that year.
4. Fulham: 2007/08
There are few things more nerve-racking in football than relying on your goal difference to confirm your fate, whether it is at the top or bottom. Just ask the Manchester United team from 2011/12, who were pipped to the title by neighbours City on goal difference!
And life was equally as tense for Roy Hodgson’s Fulham entering their final game of the season knowing a win against Portsmouth might not be enough to secure their place in the Premier League.
With Derby County long since relegated with a paltry tally of just 11 points, Fulham, Reading and Birmingham City were within touching distance of safety on the final day.
However, Danny Murphy’s headed goal from Jimmy Bullard's free-kick 14 minutes from time gave the Cottagers a 1-0 victory over Pompey, who won the FA Cup six days later, to leave the Londoners on 36 points, level with Reading and a point clear of City.
The Royals also beat Derby 4-0 but it wasn’t enough to deny Fulham, whose superior goal difference of just three kept them in the top flight.
3. Bradford City: 1999/00
Premier League debutants Bradford City found the going tough in the top flight and it came as little surprise that they were embroiled in a relegation battle after just one win in their opening seven games.
Their situation showed no sign of improvement throughout a difficult season and Paul Jewell’s men were six points from safety with just five games to go.
Cue a miraculous run of three wins and a draw to leave them requiring a win over Champions League-chasing Liverpool on the final day of the season at a packed Valley Parade.
With Watford and Sheffield Wednesday already down, Bradford and Wimbledon were left to battle it out to avoid finishing in the third and final relegation spot.
Centre-half David Wetherall scored in the first half and, with Wimbledon losing to Southampton, the hosts held on to provoke celebratory scenes at the final whistle.
2. Oldham Athletic: 1992/93
The 1992/93 season saw the first running of the newly-revamped FA Premier League, and the new and improved product did not disappoint as Manchester United claimed their first title in 26 years with 10 points to spare over Aston Villa.
At the other end, there was a three-way tie for the final relegation spot going into the final day with Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest already confirmed for the drop.
Southampton, Oldham Athletic and Crystal Palace were locked in a tense battle for survival, with Oldham hosting the Saints adding extra intrigue to an already absorbing scenario.
A win for Palace and Oldham would see Southampton go down. Victory for Palace and a draw or better for Southampton would mean the Latics would be relegated.
As it turned out, the Eagles fell 3-0 at Arsenal and Oldham’s sensational 4-3 win over Southampton was enough to see Joe Royle’s men pip the Londoners on goal difference, just two goals of a gap deciding their fate.
Goals from Neil Pointon, Ian Olney, Andy Ritchie and Gunnar Halle put the hosts 4-1 up at Boundary Park, although a second-half brace from Matt LeTissier did threaten to spoil the party.
1. West Bromwich Albion: 2004/05
Throughout the Premier League era, one or more of the relegation places have been confirmed well before the final day of action.
Not so during the 2004/05 season, as four teams went into their final game harbouring a chance of survival, with West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Southampton all hanging on with one game to go.
Bryan Robson’s West Brom were bottom of the table at Christmas, and no side before that had avoided the drop from that position.
However, three wins and four draws in their final 10 games gave them a fighting chance of securing their survival going into the final day, and their subsequent 2-0 victory over Portsmouth consigned Palace, Norwich and the Saints to relegation, with just two points separating 17th and 20th.
According to this BBC report:
It was an afternoon of drama and tension at the Hawthorns, with emotions ebbing and flowing as scores from the other games were received on radios and mobile phones.
Substitute Geoff Horsfield was the hero of the hour for the Baggies, volleying home the opener shortly after being sprung from the bench and setting up Kieran Richardson with a clever backheel for the second to send the Hawthorns into wild celebration at full-time.
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