Crawley Town 3-0 Leeds United, 2020/21 FA Cup
There’s nothing quite like a great cup tie, and English football has been no stranger to giant upsets over the years. Think Teletext signings, muddy pitches and patronising television coverage – all the greats.
Marcelo Bielsa's swashbuckling Leeds were well beaten, thanks to goals from Nick Tsaroulla, Ashley Nadesan and Jordan Tunnicliffe. The Reds made light work of the 62-places gap between the sides, and wrote themselves into FA Cup folklore with a glorious win their fans will savour for years to come.
Manchester City 0-1 Wigan, 2012/13 FA Cup
Wigan clinched the first major trophy in their 81-year history with a stunning victory over Manchester City’s expensively-assembled squad.
Ben Watson scored the winner at the death to secure a remarkable result and some long-awaited silverware, but the buzz it produced wasn’t enough to help Roberto Martinez’s side avoid relegation from the Premier League just days later.
Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal, 1991/92 FA Cup
On the face of it, there was only going to be one winner here. Arsenal were reigning champions of England; Wrexham were rooted to the foot of the Fourth Division.
The wheels were set in motion for a walkover when Alan Smith put the Gunners in front, but the Londoners were stunned when the hosts levelled through Mickey Thomas’s free-kick with 10 minutes remaining. And there was more to come when Steve Watkin astonishingly turned the tie on its head with a late winner.
Sunderland 0-1 Millwall, 2003/04 FA Cup
Tim Cahill’s strike sent Millwall to their first ever FA Cup final and continued the Championship side’s stunning run through the competition.
Although they went on to lose 3-0 Manchester United and finish as runners-up, the Australian remembers his winner fondly. "I ran the length of the pitch like Forrest Gump! It was amazing to score that goal," Cahill told FourFourTwo in 2018.
Chelsea 2-4 Bradford, 2014/15 FA Cup
Chelsea have taken the FA Cup very seriously in the Roman Abramovich era, winning the tournament five times in the 12 seasons between 2006 and 2018. Their joint-earliest exit in that time came in 2014/15, when they were on the wrong end of one of the biggest upsets in recent memory.
The Premier League leaders went 2-0 up against League One side Bradford and appeared to have one foot in the next round. Yet the Bantams came roaring back, scoring four times without reply to stun Stamford Bridge.
Hereford United 2-1 Newcastle United, 1971/72 FA Cup
Think big FA Cup shocks and great goals, and there's a good chance that Ronnie Radford's stunning winner for non-league Hereford against Newcastle springs to mind.
Ricky George actually scored the winner in extra time, but no one ever remembers that.
Leicester 1-2 Wycombe, 2000/01 FA Cup
In a classic romantic cup story, Lawrie Sanchez guided Wycombe to a stunning victory over top-flight Leicester which sent the unfancied Second Division side into the FA Cup semi-finals.
Substitute Roy Essandoh had been plucked from obscurity – "the only one to answer a Teletext message from us pleading for any striker to come forward," according to Sanchez – after signing a two-week contract with the injury-hit club less than a week before the tie. In true fairytale fashion, he headed home the winner in injury time to earn immediate cult hero status at Adams Park.
Liverpool 0-1 Wimbledon, 1987/88 FA Cup
Liverpool were heavy favourites to come out on top in the 1988 FA Cup final against unfancied Wimbledon, who had been a third-tier side four years earlier.
Instead, Dave Beasant saved John Aldridge’s penalty, becoming the first goalkeeper to stop a spot-kick in a cup final, before Lawrie Sanchez nodded home the winner from a Dennis Wise delivery. As a stunned John Motson famously put it on commentary: "The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club!"
MK Dons 4-0 Manchester United, 2014/15 League Cup
Louis van Gaal had endured a disappointing start to his Manchester United tenure – and then this happened.
The Red Devils, who entered the second round of the League Cup for the first time in 19 years after a seventh-placed finish the year before, were humiliated by MK Dons of League One, who celebrated a monumental victory in front of a record crowd thanks to braces from Will Grigg and Benik Afobe.
Walsall 2-0 Arsenal, 1932/33 FA Cup
Arsenal were the team to beat in the early 1930s. FA Cup winners in 1929/30, they followed that success with four out of five First Division titles under Herbert Chapman. They also lifted the FA Cup again in 1936, but it was in that competition that they suffered one of their most humbling defeats of all time.
Walsall were in the third tier and relied upon several amateur players to make up their squad, but they still managed to pull off a monumental 2-0 victory over the strongest team in the land.
Stoke 2-3 Blyth Spartans, 1977/78 FA Cup
Northern League outfit Blyth Spartans stunned everyone with their progress in 1977/78 as they overcame a Stoke side that had only recently been relegated from the top flight
The non-league minnows then held Wrexham to a draw in the next round, but eventually bowed out bravely in front of a 42,000-strong crowd at Newcastle's St James’ Park, which hosted the replay after the first encounter finished 1-1.
Oldham 3-2 Liverpool, 2012/13 FA Cup
League One outfit Oldham knocked Liverpool out in the fourth round of the FA Cup thanks to a Matt Smith double at Boundary Park.
Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard trudged off the park in dismay, and Merseyside neighbours Everton nearly suffered the same fate in the next round when Smith was again on target with a late equaliser. Oldham forced a replay before eventually succumbing to a 3-1 defeat at Goodison Park.
Sutton United 2-1 Coventry City, 1988/89 FA Cup
High-flying Coventry had won the FA Cup just 18 months before their trip to Sutton in January 1989, so they were widely expected to come through this game unscathed..
However, the non-league side clinched a famous win thanks to goals from Tony Rains and Matthew Hanlan – all under the watching eye of manager (and English teacher) Barrie Williams.
Burnley 0-1 Lincoln, 2016/17 FA Cup
Burnley may have been battling against relegation to the Championship in 2016/17, but the top-flight side were still expected to have far too much quality for unfancied Lincoln.
However, the non-leaguers didn't agree. In a stunning effort, they became the first team outside the top four divisions to reach the fourth round of the FA Cup in 103 years.
Yeovil 2-1 Sunderland, 1948/49 FA Cup
Yeovil entered the 1948/49 FA Cup in the Fourth Qualifying Round, where the Southern League side overcame narrowly overcame Lovells Athletic. They continued to progress through the tournament, beating Romford, Weymouth and Bury to set up a glamour tie against top-tier Sunderland in the fourth round.
No one gave Yeovil a chance, but they delivered a stunning upset in front of their own fans by beating the Black Cats 2-1 thanks to goals from Alec Stock and Eric Bryant.
Manchester United 0-1 Leeds, 2009/10 FA Cup
Manchester United and Leeds resumed their long-standing rivalry in the 2009/10 FA Cup after six years without playing each other.
Leeds had sunk to League One in that time and headed to Old Trafford more in hope than expectation, but Jermaine Beckford scored the only goal of the game to send the away end delirious.
York City 1-0 Arsenal, 1984/85 FA Cup
It's fair to say the mid-1980s weren't the best of times for Arsenal: between 1983 and 1988 they won just a solitary League Cup and routinely finished closer to mid-table than top spot in the First Division.
One of their worst results in that period came at Bootham Crescent, where Third Division outfit York administered a 1-0 defeat to the surprise of a nation.
Liverpool 2-2 Northampton Town (2-4 pens), 2010/11 League Cup
The nadir of Roy Hodgson's ill-fated Liverpool tenure came in the third round of the League Cup, where Liverpool were held to a 2-2 draw by Northampton and then beaten on penalties on their home turf.
Hodgson had named a weakened team with half an eye on an upcoming Premier League meeting with Sunderland, but there was still no excuse for the Reds' poor performance against their League Two opponents.
Manchester United 0-1 Sheffield Wednesday, 1990/91 League Cup
When Manchester United beat Leeds in the semi-finals of the 1990/91 League Cup, they appeared to have done the hard part. Sheffield Wednesday of the Second Division awaited in the final, with Alex Ferguson's men heavy favourites to triumph.
Things didn't go to plan at Wembley, though: John Sheridan grabbed the game's only goal in the first half to give the Owls a famous victory.
QPR 3-2 West Brom, 1966/67 League Cup
This was the first League Cup final to be contested over a single game, with the previous six editions all ending with a two-legged encounter. The change made upsets more likely, as QPR demonstrated in front of more than 97,000 fans at Wembley.
A Third Division side, Rangers were huge underdogs despite their impressive progress to this stage of the competition. However, Alec Stock's men ran out deserved winners, with Mark Lazarus notching the winner late on.
Norwich 0-1 Luton, 2012/13 FA Cup
Luton became the first non-league side to knock a top-flight opponent out of the FA Cup since 1989 when they embarrassed Norwich at Carrow Road in 2013.
Substitute Scott Rendell topped off a superb display from the visitors with the winning goal 10 minutes from time.
Shrewsbury 2-1 Everton, 2002/03 FA Cup
Nigel Jemson’s double gave Shrewsbury an unexpected victory over Premier League opposition in 2003, with Everton falling victim to a major shock at Gay Meadow.
It was a famous victory for the Shrews - managed by former Toffees captain Kevin Ratcliffe - and one that few had predicted, given that going into the game they were sitting near the bottom of the Football League pyramid.
Burnley 0-1 Wimbledon, 1974/75 FA Cup
Wimbledon won the FA Cup in 1988, but back in the mid-1970s they were still a Southern League side. They were, however, on their way to their first of three consecutive titles at that level, and further demonstrated their quality by shocking Burnley at Turf Moor.
The Clarets were a solid mid-table team in the First Division, and were expected to swat the Dons aside with minimum fuss. Instead, the Londoners won 1-0 to reach the fourth round for the first time in their history.
Sunderland 1-0 Leeds, 1972/73 FA Cup
Leeds were FA Cup holders and one of English football’s powerhouses, so they were expected to ease past Division Two outfit Sunderland in the 1973 final.
In one of the biggest shocks in the history of a competition packed with upsets, Jimmy Montgomery had an outstanding game in goal for the Black Cats to ensure that Ian Porterfield’s first-half strike was decisive.
Tottenham 3-1 Sheffield United, 1900/01 FA Cup
Spurs remain the only non-league side to win the FA Cup thanks to their surprise success at the turn of the century.
Thirteen years on from the foundation of the Football League, Tottenham were reigning champions of the Southern League and embarked on an impressive run of victories over more illustrious opponents. That culminated in a defeat of Sheffield United in the final replay after the first game was drawn 2-2.
Bournemouth 2-0 Manchester United, 1983/84 FA Cup
A young Harry Redknapp was in the home team's dugout when Bournemouth put Manchester United to the sword in the third round of the 1983/84 FA Cup.
The Cherries were a third-tier team back then, while United were defending champions having won the competition the year before. They would also triumph in the FA Cup in 1985, but a 2-0 defeat by Bournemouth in the intervening season proved hard to swallow.
Alasdair Mackenzie is a freelance journalist based in Rome, and a FourFourTwo contributor since 2015. When not pulling on the FFT shirt, he can be found at Reuters, The Times and the i. An Italophile since growing up on a diet of Football Italia on Channel 4, he now counts himself among thousands of fans sharing a passion for Ross County and Lazio.
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