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Five of the biggest FA Cup third round upsets

The FA Cup’s third round regularly throws up plenty of thrills and spills and remains one of the most watchable weekends on the football calendar.

England’s elite join the competition at the third round, mixing with clubs from several tiers lower down the pyramid.

Ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup action, we’ve decided to revisit some of the competition’s greatest third-round giant killings.

Here are five of the biggest 3rd round upsets in FA Cup history:

Hereford 2-1 Newcastle – 1972

Non-league Hereford United produced one of the FA Cup’s all-time great shocks when they welcomed top-flight Newcastle in the third round of the competition in 1972, the visit of one of English football’s grand institutions sparking feverish scenes at the club’s Edgar Street home.

Hereford had battled valiantly to secure a shock 2-2 draw at St James’ Park, securing a replay that would see Colin Addison’s side become the lowest-ever ranked side to shock top tier opposition.

Fans piled into the stadium and those without seats climbed walls, floodlight pylons, and trees for a vantage point to view the action, with the part-time outfit running out to the Rocky theme music. Just like the fictional fighter, the club upset the odds.

The boggy nature of the pitch made life difficult for Newcastle but the Magpies looked to be heading through when Malcolm McDonald rose highest to power home an opener with just eight minutes remaining, only for Ronnie Radford’s sensational 30-yard strike to level the scores – sparking a mass pitch invasion and forcing extra-time.

Ricky George proved the match-winner in the added period to spark jubilant celebrations, as Hereford became the first non-league side in 23 years to beat a top-flight side in a competitive fixture.

Bournemouth 2-0 Manchester United – 1984

The mid-eighties saw a young up-and-coming manager by the name of Harry Redknapp lead Bournemouth to one of the great cup upsets, as his Cherries side eliminated holders Manchester United in fine fashion.

Bournemouth were then a Third Division outfit but more than matched their illustrious opposition on the South Coast, with Ron Atkinson’s Red Devils suffering their second shock exit of the season after an embarrassing Milk Cup elimination to Oxford United.

Milton Graham opened the scoring from close range in the second half after United goalkeeper Gary Bailey flapped at an in-swinging corner, before the lower league side doubled their advantage through Ian Thompson.

Bournemouth were good value for their victory with Redknapp declaring the clash as the ‘greatest day’ of his life post-match. The players were rewarded with a £200 bonus and a holiday that never eventually materialised.

Sutton United 2-1 Coventry City – 1989

One of the most iconic giant-killings in FA Cup history, top-flight Coventry were dumped out of the competition in 1989 against Conference outfit Sutton United.

Coventry had won the competition just two years earlier and were sitting third in the top tier with a host of internationals amid their ranks, though it was rank underdogs Sutton who took a shock lead as Tony Rains headed home a surprise opener.

The First Division Sky Blues hit back to equalise through David Phillips shortly after the interval, though the momentum was regained by the non-league side who bounced back to cause a seismic shock.

Sutton’s match-winner came following a well-worked set-piece and Matthew Hanlon secured his place in FA Cup folklore with a historic winner for the fifth-tier outfit.

Sutton were dumped out of the competition in the very next round after an 8-0 thrashing at Norwich, though it took another 24 years before their achievement in defeating top-flight opposition as a non-league side was matched.

Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal – 1992

Arsenal were the reigning First Division champions when they travelled to face fourth-tier Wrexham at the Racecourse Ground in 1992, with George Graham’s side expected to have little trouble in progressing to the fourth round.

The north London side had secured the club-record signing of Ian Wright during the summer and were once again contenders to be crowned as champions of England, though lowly Wrexham had other ideas following an incredible comeback victory.

Arsenal looked to be in control after Alan Smith had converted from Paul Merson’s cross shortly before the interval, though the Gunners’ inability to kill off the tie would come back to haunt them in sensational style.

Mickey Thomas – the 37-year-old former Manchester United and Everton winger – placed a fabulous free kick into the top corner to equalise with just eight minutes remaining, before Wrexham scored a second just two minutes later through Steve Watkins to stun the visitors and seal their place in the fourth round.

Manchester United 0-1 Leeds – 2010

Manchester United against Leeds is one of the great rivalries of English football with both sides having enjoyed huge success, though an FA Cup third round clash between the two sides took on a different dynamic back in 2010.

Leeds’ financial meltdown had seen the club drop from the Premier League to England’s third tier, with few expecting much when they crossed the Pennines to face a Red Devils side who had reached successive Champions League finals over the past two campaigns.

Forty-two league places separated the two sides, but it was Leeds who moved into the fourth round. Jermaine Beckford raced clear of the home side’s defence to open the scoring and silence a shell-shocked Old Trafford.

It was the first time that Sir Alex Ferguson – winner of the competition five times previously – had been eliminated in the third round as Manchester United manager and the first time the Scot had lost to lower league opposition – there could hardly have been a worse side to break that record.

Read – AFCON 2023: Five players to watch out for

Read Also – Five talking points ahead of the FA Cup third round

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