The Premier League's 10 greatest final day relegation dramas

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?

With 'Survival Sunday' looming, Vithushan Ehantharajah and David Jamieson look back on some of the Premier League's most memorable final day relegation tussles...

1992/93 - Oldham survive as Eagles Gunned-down at Highbury

Oldham Athletic needed to beat visiting side Southampton and keep everything crossed that Palace would lose at Arsenal. Even then goal difference would be the decider. Half way through the second half, Oldham were four-one up with Palace trailing 2-0 at dear old Highbury. Quaint little Mexican waves started lapping Boundary Park until Matt Le Tissier cranked the tension back up to 11 by completing his hat-trick in the 85th minute. However Palace’s margin of loss meant Oldham stayed up by two goals and the Latics’ Gunnar Halle was spared a life haunted by a glaring miss with Saints’ goalkeeper Tim Flowers like a rabbit in headlights.

1993/94 -
Blades' Bridge of sighs as Toffees avoid sticky moment

Needing a win to survive, Everton found themselves 2-1 down to Wimbledon at half-time, meaning Sheffield United – who were on level terms away at Chelsea – were clear of the drop zone. However a storming second half comeback from the Merseysiders, and a late Mark Stein winner for Chelsea, meant the Blades were relegated from the top-flight. Graham Stuart grabbed the winner for The Toffees, but it was Barry Horne’s 30-yard screamer that got the survival ball rolling…

1996/97 - Middlesbrough pay the price for calling in sick

Earlier in the season, Middlesbrough were docked three points for pulling out of a match against Blackburn, after they reported that 23 of their players were absent through illness or injury. Going into the last game they found themselves in a three-way battle against the drop with Sunderland and Coventry City. Sunderland’s two point cushion over the other two meant their fate was in their hands as they faced Wimbledon. Boro and the Sky Blues needed three points against Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur, respectively, and then for their counterparts to slip up. Would those deducted points prove crucial to Boro’s fate? Well yes, yes they would - Coventry won at White Hart Lane and survived at the last…

1997/98 - Bolton make it a treble as Everton do it again

Bolton Wanderers, who had gained promotion to the Premier League alongside Crystal Palace and Barnsley, were looking to avoid joining the pair in relegation straight back to the second tier – and they needed to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to do it. A draw would be enough, as long as Everton didn’t beat Coventry City at Goodison Park. Everton’s superior goal-difference meant a draw, coupled with a Bolton loss, would be enough for them…     

1998/99 - Saints march on as Charlton make swift exit

The Saints had a man named Marian to thank for their final day escape from relegation in 1999. Southampton had spent almost the entire season in the relegation zone but could survive by beating Everton at the Dell - anything less, combined with a Charlton win at home to Sheffield Wednesday, would see Charlton stay up at the Saints’ expense. As it turned out Charlton lost 1-0, but two goals from Marian Pahars, weeks after a crucial equalizer against Blackburn, sent the Little Latvian well on his way to the cult hero status he now enjoys with Saints fans. The Addicks returned to the second tier after just 10 months in the top flight.

1999/00 - End of the road for the Crazy Gang

Wimbledon were perched precariously above the drop-zone on goal difference going into the final day, but a win at already-safe Southampton would make them likewise, as would at least matching Bradford’s result at home to Liverpool. So, with their fate in their own hands and their relegation-rivals facing Champions League hopefuls, Wimbledon, their fans and their transistor-radio-carrying fans’ travelled down to the south-coast. Wimbledon were under pressure almost immediately from kick-off and, as the fans with the radios glued to their ears would have communicated to them, things weren’t going to plan up at the Valley Parade either…

2002/03 - Big Sam dusts off his dancing shoes

With a superior goal difference, Bolton were in control of theirs and West Ham’s destiny as the 2002/03 season drew to a close. A win against Middlesbrough at home would relegate the Hammers, whose only hope was to beat Birmingham and pray that Bolton drew or lost. In the event Bolton did beat Middlesbrough, rendering West Ham’s draw at St Andrews immaterial, and West Ham paid for a woeful season that saw them occupy a relegation place for all but a few weeks. Sam Allardyce famously celebrated by performaing a cringe-worthy dad-dance with Jay-Jay Okocha at the final whistle...

Allardyce (right) in his dancing shoes (Jay Jay Okocha not pictured...)

2004/05 - Canaries choke as Portsmouth put their feet up

For the first time in the Premier League’s history, the final weekend saw all three of the teams in the drop zone still in with a chance of survival. Four teams were in danger – Norwich, Southampton, Crystal Palace & West Brom – with a Norwich win putting the other three to bed. West Bromwich Albion were deemed the least likeliest to survive, having been bottom at Christmas and needing a home win over Portsmouth (who weren't keen on doing rivals Saints a favour), coupled with dropped points from the other three to be safe. The Baggies won 2-0 and, thanks to defeats for Norwich (6-0 at Fulham), Southampton (2-1 to Manchester United) and Palace's draw at Charlton, they became the first side in the Premier League era to avoid the drop having been bottom at Christmas.

2006/07 - Carlos Tevez makes Neil Warnock's head explode...

West Ham, Wigan and Sheffield United battled it out to avoid the last remaining relegation place on the final day of the season, with all eyes on Bramall Lane for the showdown between the latter two. Only a win would keep Wigan up, while Sheffield United could settle for a draw. Elsewhere, West Ham traveled to Old Trafford, needing a point to secure their Premier League spot for the next season, having escaped a points’ deduction after being found guilty or irregularities over the ownership of Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez, much to the annoyance of Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock. We’ll just leave it there, shall we…?

2007/08 - Goal gluts can't save Royals & Brum as Fulham survive

Fulham, Reading and Birmingham all knew a win would have seen them safe, so long as the other two dropped points. Being a point behind the other two put Birmingham at a disadvantage but they had marginally better goal difference. Fulham in turn had marginally better goal difference than Reading so it was they who sat just outside the relegation zone come the final day. Cue media pundits tying themselves in knots discussing the various permutations and illustrating them with fancy computer graphics. In the end, they all won - Birmingham 4-1 against Blackburn and Reading 4-0 at Derby - but Fulham's narrow 1-0 victory at Portsmouth was just enough to see them survive.