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Down to the wire: The eight times the Premier League title was decided on the final day

There is perhaps nothing more gripping than a tense Premier League title race, and throughout the years we’ve been blessed with some nail-biting finishes in England’s top tier.

The prospect of two or more teams competing to the final stages of the campaign makes for enthralling viewing for football fans, as the anticipation and pressure builds in what is now commonly referred to as squeaky-bum-time.

We’ve decided to look back at some of the greatest conclusions to a Premier League season, the occasions the destination of the league title has been undecided heading into the final day of the campaign.


Here are the eight times the Premier League title went down to the wire:


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The early seasons of the Premier League era saw Blackburn Rovers emerge as a real force in English football, the Lancashire side backed by the millions of Jack Walker and propelled by the goals of British transfer-record signing Alan Shearer.

After finishing fourth and second in the first two seasons of the newly-formed Premier League, there was a growing sense of belief around Ewood Park that the club could secure a first league title since 1914.

Standing in the club’s way, however, were Manchester United, the club having broken a 26-year wait for a top-flight crown with back-to-back league titles under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson.

What ensued was a gripping title race between the defending champions and the financially-backed Rovers, though it was the latter who led for much of the campaign and headed into the final day two points clear.

Blackburn headed to Liverpool on the final day of the season, though the fixture was seen as an advantage given Rovers were coached by Reds legend Kenny Dalglish and the Merseyside club’s rivalry with title rivals United.

Any suggestions Liverpool would lie down were swiftly removed, as the hosts came from behind to win at Anfield – leaving Blackburn reliant on United’s result away at West Ham.

Ferguson’s side could only muster a 1-1 draw at Upton Park in a game that saw chance after chance squandered, however, Blackburn’s final day defeat proved meaningless as they were crowned champions for the first time in 81 years.


“I would love it if we beat them” are the iconic words of Magpies manager Kevin Keegan as the title race with Manchester United came closer and closer to its climax, words that will forever be associated with the former Newcastle boss after his side’s epic tussle with the Red Devils during the mid-nineties.

One of the most iconic seasons of the Premier League era and a campaign that saw United once again compete for dominance in English football, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side challenged by an entertaining Newcastle team under the guidance of the aforementioned Keegan.

Newcastle, boasting the likes of David Ginola, Les Ferdinand and Peter Beardsley amongst their ranks, raced into an early lead at the summit and looked set to end their long wait for silverware after opening up a 12-point advantage by mid-January.

What looked like a title procession soon turned into a title race, however, as the wheels began to fall off for the Magpies following the turn of the new year and United began to claw their way back into contention.

Five defeats in just eight games, including defeat to United at St James’ Park and a 4-3 loss to Liverpool in an Anfield epic, saw Newcastle falter away.

United needed to lose on the final day at Middlesbrough to give Newcastle any hope of reclaiming top spot, but a 3-0 victory secured the club’s third title in four seasons and set up a second domestic double for the Red Devils.


The 1998/99 season saw Manchester United make history with an unprecedented treble-winning campaign, Ferguson’s side lifting the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League to immortalise themselves in footballing folklore.

Their season, however, saw them run agonisingly close for each of their major prizes, including in the Premier League title race against an Arsenal side who had won the domestic double the previous year and an emerging Chelsea outfit.

The 1998/99 campaign was arguably peak United vs Arsenal, the two teams perhaps as evenly matched as any title contenders in the league’s history and a Chelsea side – largely forgotten but who lost just three games all season – following behind.

United led for much of the second half of the season but a late collapse at Liverpool – that saw former captain Paul Ince come back to haunt the club and equalise late on before celebrating exuberantly – handed Arsenal the initiative.

The Gunners, however, would stumble themselves in losing to Leeds to take the title race to the final day, where United knew victory over Tottenham would see them wrestle the title back from north London.

Final day jitters saw Spurs open the scoring at Old Trafford, but goals from David Beckham and Andy Cole secured a comeback victory and crowned United champions – sealing the club’s first trophy and setting the foundation for a 10 day period that would change their history forever.

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A season which saw Manchester United and Chelsea go head-to-head for the game’s biggest prizes, the two taking the title race to the final day of the season before contesting the first ever all-English Champions League final in Moscow.

The two sides had shared each of the previous three titles and were once again the leading contenders in England’s top tier, whilst Arsenal were also firmly in the race for much of the campaign after beginning the season in electric form.

Chelsea and United met at Stamford Bridge with just three games remaining, where Michael Ballack’s double – including a late penalty – saw the west London side move level with their rivals ahead of the final two fixtures of the season.

Victories in the penultimate games saw the two sides head into the final day level on points, though United’s vastly superior goal difference meant the Red Devils would be crowned champions with three points at Wigan.

Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs secured back-to-back titles for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side as Chelsea laboured to a 1-1 draw at home to Bolton, whilst United made it double agony for the Blues and a historic double by beating the west Londoners in the Champions League final on penalties just ten days later.

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Two years later and it was once again Manchester United and Chelsea contesting for the Premier League title, the former trailing the latter by just a single point heading into the final ten games of the season.

The two sides would compile identical records across the run-in to take the title race to the final day of the campaign, a win for Chelsea at Old Trafford in early April proving crucial in the destination of the title.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Blues had impressed with their free-scoring approach and despite a defeat at Tottenham with three games remaining, held their nerve to win the title in emphatic style.

Chelsea finished the season with comfortable victories over Stoke, Liverpool and Wigan, the latter an 8-0 final day thrashing at Stamford Bridge that ended any hopes of United securing a fourth consecutive league title.

Ancelotti’s side would complete a domestic double to conclude a memorable debut season for the Italian in English football, Didier Drogba scoring the only goal as Portsmouth were beaten 1-0 at Wembley.

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Each of the previously mentioned seasons have had their own form of final day drama and tension, but nothing compares to the final day of the 2011/12 season that saw Sergio Aguero score the most iconic goal of the Premier League era.

Manchester City had emerged as a competitive force at the top of the Premier League following their billionaire takeover four years earlier, but the ‘noisy neighbours’ from the blue half of the city trailed perennial winners United by eight points with just six games to go.

United, however, uncharacteristically wobbled, losing at Wigan before drawing 4-4 with Everton at Old Trafford. Vincent Kompany then headed the only goal of the game in a Manchester derby victory for City in late April and suddenly the initiative was with the emerging force of the division.

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Both sides were level heading into the final day but, courtesy of a superior goal difference, Roberto Mancini’s side only needed t beat relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers to secure a first league title since the sixties.

What seemed like a straightforward afternoon proved anything but.

United had one hand on the title after beating Sunderland 1-0 at the Stadium of Light, as City faltered under the pressure a title race that went down to the wire, trailing to 10-man QPR as the game entered stoppage-time.

Edin Dzeko’s headed equaliser raised hope but appeared too little too late, until Aguero fired home a winner to dramatically snatch the title in arguably the Premier League’s greatest moment.


“This does not f****** slip” – the words of Steven Gerrard that will forever haunt the Liverpool captain.

Liverpool were riding a wave of momentum towards a first league title in nearly three decades in 2014, Brendan Rodgers side having registered a 10th successive league victory after defeating title rivals Manchester City at Anfield in April 2014.

Inspired by the devastating partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in attack, Merseyside was awash with anticipation as the club’s long wait for a league title came ever closer to an end.

What occurred, however, was the cruelest twist of fate, Gerrard slipping to allow Demba Ba to score in defeat to Chelsea, handing City back the title initiative courtesy of a superior goal difference with just two games remaining.

In their very next fixture, a gung-ho Liverpool squandered a three-goal lead to draw at Crystal Palace, whilst City’s flawless six-game winning run to finish the season ensured the Premier League title remained the missing medal in Gerrard’s silverware collection.


Last season once again saw Merseyside and Manchester rivalries renewed as Liverpool and City once again went toe-to-toe for the league title, setting unprecedented standards at the top of the division to establish themselves as the dominant forces in English football.

Liverpool headed into the New Year with a seven point advantage after City’s wobbles over the festive period, but defeat at the Etihad – the Reds only defeat of the league season – offered Pep Guardiola’s side hopes of retaining their title.

Between March and May, the leadership changed hands eleven times as both teams charged towards the finish line, though there was precious little drama in terms of slips as both sides racked up victory after victory.

City finished the season with a 14-game winning run as Liverpool registered a steak of 12 successive victories, the former finishing just a point ahead of their title rivals as both sides won on the final day of the season.

Liverpool finished the campaign on a club record 97 points, the highest tally of any runner-up in history and enough to win the title in 25 of the past 27 Premier League seasons.

Read – Five of the best English players of the last 30 years to never win major honours

Read Also – Picking the best XI from players to have won the Ballon d’Or

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