There is nothing quite like the last day of the Premier League season when there is still something to play for.
Live feeds being interrupted by what is going on in other games; fans nervously checking updates from other grounds every 10 seconds and celebrating as if a goal has gone in when news filters through; and, of course, the obligatory pictures of certain fans shedding tears after the final whistle has condemned their team to whatever fate lies in store for them. It’s all part of one of the most compelling days of sport there is.
In recent seasons, however, we have unfortunately been deprived of such a joyous occasion. Not since 2014 has a title race gone down to the wire and even then, it was basically wrapped up when City and Liverpool last went the distance.
Relegation battles have been equally scarce, with Hull’s relegation in 2015 the last time we were treated to the true drama of a relegation battle. Again, that one was more or less wrapped up by the time Hull played Manchester United.
Prior to this barren spell of epic final days, the Premier League had witnessed some of the most dramatic days in football and here are five that stand out in the memory.
AGUEEEEROOOOOO – 2012
“I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again, so watch it. Drink it in”
He (rightly) comes in for a lot of flak these days, but Martin Tyler undeniably got it spot on at the Etihad seven years ago.
Without doubt the most dramatic of any final day, it is often forgotten that this was a double-edged sword. City and United were of course at loggerheads for the title, but QPR and Bolton were also in a fight to stave off relegation.
It simply had everything. United, going for their 20th title, took the lead in Sunderland and put the pressure on an evidently nervous City who were chasing their first league crown in nearly 40 years. City responded by taking the lead against relegation-threatened QPR through a Paddy Kenny howler; a goal that, as it stood, would condemn the R’s to the drop with Bolton leading at Stoke.
City’s title bid looked set to be derailed though when they conceded either side of a Joey Barton red card to go 2-1 down. A string of fine saves from Kenny ensured it remained that way until injury time, while Stoke’s equaliser against Bolton ensured QPR were all but safe.
Edin Dzeko’s 92nd minute header gave City hope, but as the final whistle blew at the Stadium of Light a podium was being erected to crown United champions once again.
Step up Sergio Aguero and one of the most iconic images in Premier League history; the picture of Phil Jones’ face as it dawned on him that he would not be collecting a Premier League winners’ medal.
The Great Escape – 2005
Only once has a Premier League season gone to the final day of the season with no teams relegated, and it made for one of the most compelling days in the 27-year history of the league.
Norwich had their fate in their own hands but fell to a 6-0 defeat at Craven Cottage to open the door for one of Southampton, Crystal Palace and West Brom to save themselves.
Southampton seized the impetus and took an early lead at home to a Manchester United team who had nothing to play for. However, goals from Darren Fletcher and Ruud Van Nistelrooy either side of half time condemned the Saints to the drop and ended their 27-year stay in the Premier League.
Crystal Palace, leading 2-1 at Charlton, seemed to be the beneficiaries of Southampton’s imminent defeat, but an 82nd minute equaliser from Jonathan Fortune sent the Eagles down to the Championship.
It meant that West Brom, victorious at home to Portsmouth, would be the ones to beat the drop and become the first team to survive in the Premier League having been bottom at Christmas.
Ludek Miklosko – 1995
Three-in-a-row chasing Manchester United travelled to Upton Park on the final day of the 1994/95 season needing to beat West Ham and have Liverpool do them a favour if they were to pip Blackburn to the Premier League crown.
Unlike United a few weeks ago, Liverpool played their part in helping their bitter rivals’ cause by beating Blackburn 2-1 at Anfield to leave the door open for Alex Ferguson’s men.
United, however, fell behind to a Michael Hughes goal and had their work cut out. They dug their way back into the game through a Brian McClair header, but found any further efforts rebuffed by Ludek Miklosko in the West Ham goal.
A string of world-class saves from the Czech goalkeeper, coupled with United’s poor finishing, meant that the game ended in a draw despite some of the most frenzied goalmouth action the Premier League has ever witnessed.
United missed out on the title and Miklosko became a hero of the emerging ABU brigade.
Everton’s 11th hour heroics – 1994
Seven years after winning the league, Everton came as close as humanly possible to dropping out of the top flight without actually doing so.
The Toffees were also relying on favours elsewhere to survive, but quickly fell two goals down at home to Wimbledon to seemingly consign themselves to the First Division.
However, a second-half comeback to rival that of Spurs against Ajax hauled Everton back into the equation. Graham Stuart kickstarted the revival with a penalty before Barry Horne levelled with a 25-yard rocket.
With just eight minutes remaining, Stuart grabbed his second when his shot trickled through the arms of Hans Segers to give Everton the three points.
Sheffield United’s defeat at Chelsea meant that they took Everton’s place in the bottom three and it is now over 60 years since they were last relegated.
Tevez rescues West Ham – 2007
It says a lot that a week of barely believable footballing comebacks is still a good deal more believable than Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano joining West Ham in 2006. Both took a good deal of time to settle, but Tevez eventually played a pivotal role in the Hammers’ survival bid.
Going into the final day, West Ham needed a point at Old Trafford to ensure what seemed like an unlikely survival just six weeks previous. They ultimately went one better and came away with three points having resisted everything United threw at them.
It meant that Sheffield United were the victims of a Herculean comeback for the second time on this list, with the Blades’ defeat at home to relegation rivals Wigan condemning them straight back to the Championship.
In a gloriously dramatic game, the 10 men of Wigan held firm when anything but a win would have seen them fall through the trap door. It was the first of many great escapes from the Latics.
Sheffield United appealed that West Ham should have points deducted for the illegality of the Tevez transfer – of course they did, Neil Warnock was in charge – but nothing came of it and the Blades went down.