With the business end of the season upon us, there is still much to be decided in this Premier League season with the title, European places, and relegation yet to be decided as we head into the final furlong of the season.
Let’s take a look at five of the most exciting dramatic Premier League run-ins and final day moments to whet the appetite in what increasingly looks set to be one of the very best Premier League conclusions.
5) 2010/11 – Survival Sunday
The 2010/11 season may best be remembered for Wayne Rooney’s stunning overhead kick for Manchester United in the Manchester derby and Sir Alex Ferguson’s side cantering to the title, with a side that was far from world-class on paper.
But the most excitement for the neutral that season was definitely the battle for survival, with almost half of the Premier League embroiled in a relegation battle, with ten games of the season remaining.
Come the final day, there were five teams that could yet occupy the final two relegation spots, with Avram Grant’s West Ham United side already doomed to the bottom place and subsequent relegation to the Championship.
Blackpool, Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers were all looking over their shoulders on the final day, and with the latter two facing off against each other, it promised to be a day of twists and turns.
Blackpool and Wigan started the day in the bottom three, and it looked to be a doomed day from the off for the former, who had the unenviable task of trying to secure three points at Old Trafford against the aforementioned Champions.
Despite taking a 2-1 lead through goals from Charlie Adam and Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Ian Holloway’s side succumbed to a 4-2 defeat, and their solitary season in the Premier League was over, without disgrace.
Blackburn made sure of their safety quite early on in the day.
Having started the day outside the relegation zone as it was, Steve Kean’s side raced into a 3-0 lead at Molineux, which was a massive relief for the travelling supporters, but a disaster for their opponents in Wolves, who were now relying on other results elsewhere, bar a second-half miracle.
Meanwhile, in the game involving Birmingham, who had travelled to Tottenham Hotspur, Roman Pavlyuchenko had given the home side the lead, dropping Birmingham in the mire.
Jamie O’Hara pulled a goal back for Wolves pushing them above the relegation zone virtue of goals scored, but the tide was about to turn, when Hugo Rodallega gave Wigan a late lead at Stoke, almost simultaneous to Craig Gardner’s equaliser at Spurs, putting Wolves back in the drop-zone with just five minutes remaining.
But the day was not over, and Wolves kept on pushing for one more goal, which would bring Wolves out of the bottom three, with Birmingham needing to push for a winner.
And in the 88th minute, Stephen Hunt picked up the ball just inside the box and curled a glorious effort into the back of the net to spark pandemonium at Molineux, and secure Wolves’ safety, at the expense of local rivals Birmingham City.
Still with us?
With Birmingham now needing to push for a winner at White Hart Lane, they left spaces open at the back, and Roman Pavlyuchenko was able to take advantage for Spurs, rocketing in the winner off the bar, to confirm Wolves and Wigan’s survival, and Birmingham’s demise.
It is safe to say we have not had a relegation battle quite like it since.
4) 2004/05 – West Bromwich Albion’s great escape
Time for another final day involving relegation, though the final day itself was not quite as exciting as the last, though it was more remarkable.
Having been bottom of the Premier League table for Christmas 2004 (often the death knell for survival), Bryan Robson’s West Bromwich Albion side found a remarkable run of form just at the right time of the season.
Having headed into the final day of the season still bottom of the table, West Brom knew that survival was out of their hands and just focused on doing their job by beating Portsmouth at The Hawthorns.
Southampton, Norwich and Crystal Palace were all involved in the battle on the day alongside Albion, and with only one of these teams able to survive, it looked incredibly unlikely that Albion would be the one to take this spot.
But the footballing Gods must have been looking over Sandwell that day, with Southampton losing at home to Manchester United, Norwich getting thrashed 6-0 at Fulham and Palace only being able to earn a point at Charlton.
All it needed was for Bryan Robson’s team to meet their end of the bargain and secure a victory over Portsmouth.
And that’s exactly what they did with a 2-0 victory securing survival, and a pitch invasion at the Hawthorns ensued, celebrating the most improbable survival in modern times.
3) 2018/19 – Manchester City and Liverpool’s stunning title race
For the record, this final day wasn’t actually that dramatic.
The run-in to the final day, however, was scarcely believable.
Manchester City and Liverpool didn’t constantly flip over who was in prime position to take the league title.
They both simply just kept on winning, with City finishing on 98 points, one ahead of Liverpool’s 97, the second and third highest points tallies in Premier League history at that point (behind City’s 100 the previous season.)
Liverpool won their last nine games of the season, something you would expect to be title-winning form.
Unfortunately for them, Manchester City won their last 14 games, following January’s defeat at Newcastle.
There was a smudge of excitement on the last day, with both sides separated by a point, Liverpool struck the first blow of the afternoon by taking a 1-0 lead against Wolves at Anfield, whilst City went 1-0 down at Brighton shortly after.
However, City recovered to record a comfortable 4-1 victory at the Amex, meaning that Liverpool’s 2-0 victory on the afternoon wasn’t enough to secure a first Premier League title at Anfield.
Liverpool went on to secure the Champions League at the end of the month with a 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid, before winning the title the following season, to make up for their slightest shortcomings in 2018/19.
The 2021/22 season is shaping up to be something very similar, with both Manchester City and Liverpool running away from the rest of the pack to have a title race of their own.
2) 1994/95 – Blackburn’s title
Manchester United had won the first two instalments of the brand-new Premier League, but they began this final day of the season behind Kenny Dalglish’s Blackburn Rovers side.
On the final day, Rovers travelled to Dalglish’s spiritual home at Anfield to take on Liverpool, whilst United travelled to Upton Park to take on West Ham United, knowing they needed to win and hope Rovers lost at Anfield.
Despite the obvious want to win the game, Liverpool fans actively wanted Dalglish’s team to win the title for their former hero and more so for the fact it would deny their fierce rivals from Manchester a third title in a row.
Rovers’ top-scorer Alan Shearer gave Blackburn the lead at Anfield, but John Barnes equalised before Jamie Redknapp curled a free-kick in at the death for Liverpool at the death.
Thankfully for Rovers (and the Liverpool fans), Alex Ferguson’s side could only muster a draw at West Ham, securing a first and only Premier League title for the Lancashire side, in a day of celebration at both Anfield and Ewood Park.
2011/12 – Sergio Agüero strikes at the death
You just knew it would be this one, didn’t you?
On the final day of the season, both Manchester City and Manchester United were separated by just goal difference going into the final game of the season, in the battle for the Premier League title.
City’s goal difference was comfortably better than United, so the blue half of Manchester knew that a victory at home over relegation-threatened QPR would secure a first Premier League title, whilst United travelled to Sunderland hoping for a City slip-up.
It all started off relatively well for City, despite Wayne Rooney giving United the lead in what would be a 1-0 victory at Sunderland, as Pablo Zabaleta scored his first goal of the season to give City the lead just at half-time.
The second half is where the chaos ensued.
Just after half-time, Djibril Cissé unexpectedly levelled for the visitors, with the advantage now lying with United.
It turned from a worry to a crisis for City over the next twenty minutes, with Jamie Mackie putting the relegation-threatened Londoners ahead with 25 minutes of normal time remaining, despite QPR midfielder Joey Barton having been sent off in the build-up.
As the board went up for stoppage time, it looked like the title was heading to the red side of Manchester after their 1-0 victory at Sunderland looked to have seen them win the title by two points.
But Edin Džeko pounced from a corner with just three minutes of added time remaining to put City within one goal.
It needed a miracle.
As the celebrations were just starting to begin in Sunderland, Mario Balotelli picked up a ball from Nigel De Jong in the final minute of stoppage time before threading it through to Sergio Agüero, who slammed the ball home at Paddy Kenny’s near-post, creating bedlam at the Etihad.
City had won their first Premier League title in the most dramatic fashion possible, from their biggest and nearest rivals, in one of the sport’s most thrilling moments.
We are unlikely to see anything quite as dramatic as that final day, but we can certainly expect fireworks from the remainder of the 2021/22 season, with City in pole position to secure another Premier League title, ten years on from their first.