It’s been a season to forget for fans of West Bromwich Albion. As of mid-March, the Baggies have still only won three times all season and find themselves eight points adrift of safety with only eight games left to play.
A handful of teams have dug themselves out of even worse positions, though. In this slideshow, we pick out the 10 most miraculous relegation escapes in English football history.
"It's my most calamitous day at Manchester City," admitted former Sky Blues man Dennis Tueart after seeing his team relegated to Division Two on the final day of the 1982-83 season following a 1-0 home defeat by Luton Town. "Maine Road was like a mausoleum, and the players were silent afterwards."
City's loss was newly promoted Luton's gain. Before their dramatic showdown, the mathematics were simple: win or draw, and favourites City were safe. Lose to the visitors, and they'd go down while David Pleat's team would survive.
In a tense and nervous encounter, City were unsure whether to grind out a point or kill off the Hatters. They did neither. With five minutes remaining, Luton's Yugoslav substitute Raddy Antic drove the ball home through a crowd of City players, and John Benson’s team were sunk.
During their 32-year residency in the top flight, Coventry had regular close shaves with relegation – particularly in 1977 and 1997 – but arguably their greatest escapology act came in 1985. The Sky Blues needed to win their final three games to stay up at the expense of Milk Cup winners Norwich, who’d wrapped up their season with victory against Chelsea and sat eight points ahead.
Single-goal wins against long-since-relegated Stoke and another at mid-table Luton brought them to within two points of the Canaries, but surely City's luck would end at Highfield Road against champions Everton. Remarkably, goals by Micky Adams, Terry Gibson and a double from Cyrille Regis steered City to a 4-1 win and sent Norwich down.
On the final day of the 1993-94 campaign, the final relegation spot was between Everton, Ipswich, Sheffield United and Oldham. For 81 minutes the Toffees, who’d trailed visitors Wimbledon 2-0 at Goodison Park at one stage, were down and out.
But as soon as Everton drew level, Sheffield United – who were 2-1 up at Stamford Bridge – became jittery. A draw would have kept the Blades up, but instead they pushed forward for a winner their bench incorrectly informed the players they needed. Mark Stein scored a Chelsea winner late in stoppage time and at Goodison Park, Graeme Stuart made it 3-2 to the hosts in one of the most bizarre games ever played. Everton were safe.
“Jimmy Glass, get up there. You might as well for heavens’ sake,” screamed the local radio commentator as Carlisle United’s Division Three home clash with Plymouth in May 1999 went into the fourth minute of injury time. United – caretaker-managed by none other than Nigel Pearson – needed a victory, otherwise they would be relegated from the Football League.
But with the scores locked at 1-1 even their on-loan goalkeeper, signed by Pearson, reckoned they were doomed. But Carlisle were awarded a late corner their keeper trotted forward and in the melee smashed the ball home from seven yards to preserve his team’s league status.
With just five games to go, the Bantams' chances of remaining in the Premier League appeared virtually non-existent, but a battling series of results, including three wins and a draw, meant that victory over Champions League-chasing Liverpool on the final day at a packed Valley Parade would save their skins and relegate Wimbledon.
An early, towering David Wetherall header settled Paul Jewell’s side’s nerves, and although Bradford rode their luck in the latter stages, they clung on to a 1-0 victory, and their top-flight status. Seven years later, Jewell led Wigan to safety on the final day, beating Sheffield United in what was essentially a relegation play-off.
West Brom, 2004-05
“It’s not a statistic I want to hear,” admitted West Brom manager Bryan Robson, after being told that no team bottom of the table at Christmas had avoided the drop in the Premier League era, “but we’ll just have to prove that the impossible can be made possible.”
Three wins and four draws in the season run-in gave them a fighting chance of survival in the final game of the season which, along with Crystal Palace, Norwich and Southampton, left West Brom fighting for their lives.
Substitute Geoff Horsfield was the hero, hauling himself off the bench to score the first goal against Portsmouth, and setting up Kieran Richardson for a second. The Baggies had done it – and how they’d love to repeat the feat in 2017-18.
West Ham, 2006-07
After labouring in the drop zone for much of the season, West Ham hit a rich vein of form in April 2007, winning six games out of a possible eight.
At one stage they'd been a massive 10 points behind 17th-placed Manchester City in early March. On the final day, the Hammers faced champions Manchester United at Old Trafford knowing that only a victory would guarantee their survival in the top flight.
Carlos Tevez’s form had ignited the Hammers since the spring, and it was his seventh and final goal of the campaign that confirmed West Ham's survival, and earned him a summer move to the Red Devils on a two-year deal.
Rooted to the bottom of the Premier League and enduring a thoroughly miserable league campaign, Roberto Martinez's Wigan shocked even themselves with a morale-boosting 2-1 victory at Anfield in March 2012. Remarkably, the Latics then proceeded to win six of their final eight matches, including successes over both Arsenal and Manchester United.
Martinez's men eventually finished seven points clear of the trap door, through which Bolton, Blackburn and Wolves fell. After the vital United win, Martinez said: "I won’t be here forever. Perhaps one day Wigan's hearts will fail, and we'll go down, but I'm confident it won't be this season." Spot on, Bobby.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet claimed his side's escape from relegation "will go down in Wearside folklore". It was indeed an incredible survival act. Seemingly down and out in March, Poyet's men won four games on the trot in April, including victories over both Chelsea (at Stamford Bridge) and Manchester United.
They also drew against eventual champions Manchester City, and the unlikely star of the show was striker Connor Wickham, recalled by Poyet in late March from his loan spell at Leeds, and whose rediscovered goalscoring abilities saw him named Premier League Player of the Month for April.
"I firmly believe that Connor, and the club, will now go from strength to strength," insisted Poyet afterwards. Steady on, Gus.
Rooted to the foot of the table with 10 games to go and seven points adrift of safety, the future wasn’t bright for Nigel Pearson's Leicester. Little did they know, though, that this period would prove the turning point for English football's most sensational ever achievement.
The Foxes had been without a win for almost two-and-a-half months but set off on a stunning end-of-season run, emerging victorious from seven of their final nine matches – including a final-day 5-1 smashing of QPR – to eventually finish a lofty 14th.
In one of those games, at the home of fellow strugglers Burnley, the Clarets missed a penalty only to watch Jamie Vardy dash up the other end to score the winner in a 1-0 smash-and-grab. Then came 2015-16 – and an even bigger miracle.
Greg Lea is a freelance football journalist who's filled in wherever FourFourTwo needs him since 2014. He became a Crystal Palace fan after watching a 1-0 loss to Port Vale in 1998, and once got on the scoresheet in a primary school game against Wilfried Zaha's Whitehorse Manor (an own goal in an 8-0 defeat).