Whilst the Premier League title is tied up and in the bag for Manchester United, there is a still a hell of a lot to play for at other end of the table on Sunday. Sam Cooper takes a look at some of the more memorable final day battles.
Five -2007/2008 – Reading win 4-0 away but Murphy has the final say
Going into the final day of last season, Bolton, Fulham, Birmingham and Reading were all unsure as to whether or not they would be playing in the Premier League again.
Reading, who began the day in the relegation zone, were first to strike. James Harper gave the Royals the lead away at Derby after just 14 minutes. A goal which lifted Steve Coppell’s side out of the relegation zone.
Next to stake their claim were Birmingham. Blackburn ‘keeper Brad Friedel failed to deal with David Murphy’s long-range effort and, as the Blues faithful sang out the Great Escape, Birmingham took the lead.
At half-time with Fulham failing to find a goal at Portsmouth, Reading were safe and Fulham and Birmingham were set to join Derby in the Championship.
Nine minutes into the second half at St Andrews, Blackburn equalised through Morten Gamst Pedersen.
The news had filtered through to Pride Park and within ten minutes, Reading doubled their advantage through Dave Kitson.
The Royals win was all but secured with just over fifteen minutes to go when substitute Kevin Doyle scored the third. It was now just a matter of hoping Fulham couldn’t score at Portsmouth.
Birmingham did regain their lead thorugh Cameron Jerome, but the Blues fate was near enough certain, unless Derby were to secure a remarkable comeback, they were down.
Then came the decisive moment. Knowing they needed a goal to stay up, Fulham piled on the pressure at Fratton Park and 14 minutes from time, captain Danny Murphy gave Roy Hodgson’s side the lead.
Lita grabbed Reading’s fourth just before the final whistle but the Royals were left praying for a Pompey goal.
But just one minute after their own match had ended, the final whistle blew at Portsmouth and Fulham had survived, with Reading and Birmingham joining Derby in the Championship.
Four – 1996/1997 – Middlesborough spend millions but can’t avoid the drop
Going into the final day of the season, Middlesborough, who had flashed their millions on high-profile players such as Emerson Moisés Costa, Fabrizio Ravanelli (who scored 31 goals in all competitions), Branco and Gianluca Festa, knew they must win at Elland Road to survive.
Boro would already have had their top flght status secured if they had not been docked three points for failing to fulfil a fixture against Blackburn Rovers in December.
However, Bryan Robson’s side could only manage a 1-1 draw and the docked points meant that, Coventry City could maintain their 31 year stay in the top flight, thanks to a 2-1 victory at Tottenham.
It was argued that, if Boro were to play thier reserves and youths and lost the game, they would have still stayed up, thus they were not gaining any advantages by not playing.
But the decision stood and Middlesborough were relegated to the Football League Division One, alongside Nottingham Forest and Sunderland, who went down due to a 1-0 defeat at Wimbledon.
Three – 1995/1996 – City down despite late resurgence
The final day of the 1995/1996 FA Premier League season saw Manchester City’s seven year spell in the top flight come to an end.
Going into the final day, City knew that if they could better Southampton’s result, they were safe.
Phil Neal’s side played host to Liverpool at Maine Road, whilst the Saints took on Wimbledon at the Dell.
A crowd of 31436 were at City’s famous old ground, to urge their team to Premier League survial.
However, the home crowd were silenced after just six minutes, when Steve Lomas steered the ball into his own goal.
Liverpool doubled their advantage just before the break through Ian Rush and City were near enough down.
The game was 2-0 at half-time with the game still goalless at the Dell.
City thought they had got the breakthrough in the 71st minute when Uwe Rosler slotted home the hosts first from the penatly spot.
Maine Road erupted just seven minutes when Kit Symons fired home the equaliser. The City faithful were now cheering on for a goal, preferably for their side, or for a goal for Wimbledon, which would have also seen them safe.
But City nor Wimbledon could find a goal and the games finished 2-2 and 0-0 respectively and the Citizens were relegated.
Two – 2004/2005 – The Great Escape
Going into the final day of the 2004/2005 season, West Bromwich Albion knew they could be history makers – they could be the first team in Premier League history to be bottom at Christmas, yet still stay up.
The Baggies were playing host to Portsmouth, with no team being assured of relegation.
Also involved in Sky Sports’ Survival Sunday were Southampton, playing at home to Manchester United, who only finished third in 2004/2005, and the only team who had their fate in their own hands, Norwich, who travelled to Fulham.
Southampton were first to stake their claim for survival. A John O’Shea own goal lifted them out of the relegation zone, albeit only for nine minutes when Darren Fletcher equalised for United.
Norwich’s hopes of survial were hit a huge blow, when Brian McBride gave Fulham the lead at Craven Cottage.
The hosts doubled their advanatage ten minutes before half time through Papa Boupa Diop, just after Bryan Hughes had put Charlton ahead against Crystal Palace.
The position at half-time saw Southampton sitting just outside the relegation zone on goal difference, with West Brom still bottom and Norwich and Palace set to join them in the second tier.
Nine minutes into the second half, Norwich’s status in the top flight was all but ended when Zat Knight put Fulham three goals to the good.
Then, the breakthrough that would turn the relegation dog fight on its head. Geoff Horsfield opened the scoring at the Hawthornes to give West Brom a 1-0 lead at home to Portsmouth and lift the Baggies out of the bottom three.
But the day wasn’t finished there, Dougie Freedman equalised for Palace at Charlton, meaning the Eagles were just one goal away from safety themselves.
While Fulham continued to make easy work of Norwich, Manchester United took the lead at the Dell to silence the St Mary’s Stadium.
The action was electrifying at all four grounds now, with goals flying in left, right and centre.
Quite remarkably, Crystal Palace were awarded a penalty at the Valley and their top scorer Andy Johnson made no mistake from the spot.
This meant that Palace had climbed out of the relegation zone on goal difference, with Norwich Southampton and West Brom heading for the Championship.
But the Baggies weren’t finished there and they weren’t giving up without a fight. Kieran Richardson fired home from 25 yards to give the Hawthornes hope.
They were to be rewarded for their never say die attitude when, on 82 minutes at the Valley, Jonathan Fortune equalised to send Palace down and West Brom were history makers!
One – 2006/2007 – The £20m pound goal
Following their success in the Championship the year before, Sheffield United knew that a point at home to Wigan would see them maintain their Premier League status.
However, it wasn’t to be quite as straight forward as that for the Blades on what is unevitably the most controversial of all the relegation battles.
With Watford and Charlton already relegated, it was between West Ham, who travelled to Old Trafford and Sheffield United and Wigan, who met at Bramall Lane.
Wigan got off to the perfect start and took the lead on 14 minutes through Paul Scharner, a goal which silenced the home ground.
The Blades were level and more importantly, safe, seven minutes before the break through Jon Stead.
This was only to be cancelled out just before the break when Mike Dean, (who is to be referee of the Blades playoff final against Burnley and who also sent off Matthew Kilgallon in the Steel City derby at Hillsborough), awarded the Latics a penalty.
Former Blade David Unsworth stepped up and made no mistake under immense pressure.
But there was to be another twist before the break. West Ham were pressing against League champions Manchester United and were ahead and safe just before the break, thanks to Carlos Tevez’s placed finish.
Neil Warnock’s side continued to press in the second half but to no avail and it was Wigan and more controversially West Ham who stayed up. The latter thanks to a goal by a player who, technically, shouldn’t have been on the field.
Wigan survived thanks to a fantastic display and more importantly, victory at Bramall Lane, whilst West Ham stayed up thanks to a goal which would later cost the club £20 million.