After Everton secured their safety in dramatic fashion at Goodison Park, the Premier League relegation scrap is down to the final two. Either Burnley or Leeds United will be relegated this weekend, with the Whites needing to better Burnley’s result to stay in the division. It’s set to be another tense weekend at the bottom of the table, but both clubs can take inspiration from some of the great final-day escapes of the past.
We’ve taken a quick flick through the history books and picked out 10 of the best last-day survival stories.
1992/93 - Oldham in dreamland
In the very first Premier League season the relegation battle went right to the wire. Crystal Palace thought they had done enough when they beat Ipswich Town 3-1 in their final home game, and the players even went on a lap of honour. But Oldham went to title chasers Aston Villa and won, then they beat Liverpool at home.
That left them three points behind Palace on the final day, with a worse goal difference. However, they staged an unlikely turnaround and as Palace were beaten 3-0 at Highbury, Oldham secured a 4-3 win over Southampton to secure survival.
1996/97 - Coventry survive in unlikely circumstances
A win would have been enough to keep Peter Reid’s Sunderland up on the final day in 1997, but they lost 1-0 at Wimbledon, to keep Coventry’s survival hopes alive. The Sky Blues went to White Hart Lane and secured a 2-1 win with goals from Dion Dublin and Paul Williams, a result that would keep them in the division.
Remarkably, only three points separated Middlesbrough in 19th and Blackburn in 13th at the end of the campaign, while Boro were fatally deducted three points after failing to fulfil a fixture. If they’d have fielded any team against Rovers in December, they would have stayed up.
1999/00 - Bantams condemn Wimbledon
Bradford and Wimbledon went into the final day level on points, but the Bantams were behind by one on goal difference. Facing Liverpool at Valley Parade, Paul Jewell’s side secured a historic 1-0 win thanks to David Wetherall’s header while Southampton beat Wimbledon 2-0 to send them down.
2002/03 - West Ham’s record points total isn’t enough
Heading into the final day, Bolton Wanderers or West Ham would join already relegated West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland. The teams were level on points going into the last match, but Bolton had the advantage with a superior goal difference.
Goals from Per Frandsen and Jay Jay Okocha gave the Trotters the win they needed against Middlesbrough, whilst West Ham drew with Birmingham. The results meant that the Hammers went down with 42 points, still the highest total for a relegated team in Premier League history.
2004/05 - Baggies bounce back
Arguably the best of the lot. On the final day in 2005, any three from West Brom, Crystal Palace, Norwich and Southampton could go down leading to drama galore. WBA were bottom of the table and written off by many, while Norwich just needed to win at Fulham to stay up.
Nigel Worthington’s side lost 6-0 at Craven Cottage, Southampton lost at home to Manchester United and Crystal Palace conceded a late equaliser at Charlton to send Iain Dowie’s team down. Meanwhile, Brian Robson’s Baggies secured a 2-0 win, as Geoff Horsfield scored with his first touch off the bench to seal the most remarkable survival story.
2006/07 - Tevez drama at Old Trafford
Controversy reigned supreme as West Ham stayed up thanks to a Carlos Tevez winner at Old Trafford on the final day, while Neil Warnock’s Sheffield United were relegated having lost a crucial bottom of the table clash at home to Wigan. A David Unsworth penalty kept the Latics in the league and condemned the Blades, as West Ham escaped with five wins in the final seven matches.
2007/08 - Roy Hodgson’s Fulham pull off great escape
A rare scenario where all three teams in relegation contention won on the final day, so the standings remained the same. Reading won 4-0 at the worst team in Premier League history Derby County and Birmingham beat Blackburn 4-1 but they were both left heartbroken as Fulham secured a 1-0 win at Fratton Park to spark jubilant scenes.
2010/11 - Wolves survive on goals scored
Two teams from five had to be relegated on the final day in 2011 and Blackpool went down at champions Manchester United after a 4-2 defeat. Wigan won 1-0 at Stoke to keep their heads above water, but the real drama came at Molineux.
Blackburn raced into a 3-0 lead at relegation rivals Wolves, before a late Stephen Hunt goal Wolves pulled the score back to 3-2, a result that kept them up on goals scored, while Rovers also survived. A late 2-1 loss at Tottenham meant that Birmingham were relegated by the finest of margins.
2020/21 - Grealish saves Villa
In the Covid-19 affected season, Aston Villa were seven points off Watford in 17th with just four games to go but went unbeaten to give themselves a chance on the final day. With no fans in attendance, Watford lost at Arsenal and while Bournemouth got a win at Everton, it wasn’t enough as Villa got the point they needed.
Jack Grealish put them ahead in the 84th minute, and although Andriy Yarmolenko scored to make it a nervy finish, they held on to avoid relegation by a solitary point.
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