Blackpool and Birmingham City were relegated from the Premier League at the end of a dramatic final day of the season. Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers all stayed up, although Wigan and Wolves both looked to be going down deep into the second half of yesterday afternoon's matches. But losses for Blackpool and Birmingham, at Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur respectively, sent them down.
The tumultuous nature of the day was underlined by the fact that at half-time, it was Wigan and Wolves that were set to go down with Blackpool and Birmingham staying in the top flight. This was soon changed by Roman Pavlyuchenko's goal at White Hart Lane but when Gary Taylor-Fletcher put Blackpool 2-1 up at Old Trafford, Blackpool were safe by two points.
United came back, though, to win 4-2, and from Ian Evatt's own goal Blackpool spent the rest of the afternoon in the relegation zone. Birmingham moved safe after Craig Gardner's equaliser, and Wigan joined them when Hugo Rodallega scored. But Stephen Hunt's goal for Wolves, with three minutes left, lifted them back up the table, and Birmingham accompanied Blackpool into the Championship.
Blackpool started the day with the hardest task, having to play the champions at Old Trafford. They took the lead, though, during the second half, and were safe for much of the second half before they were overwhelmed by United and lost 4-2. Park Ji-sung chipped the hosts ahead but the Blackpool captain, Charlie Adam, curled in a free-kick just before the break.
Blackpool were heading for safety, and their position was buttressed 12 minutes into the second half when Gary Taylor-Fletcher flicked the ball past Edwin van der Sar. The lead was brief, though, and Anderson soon equalised. Ian Evatt's own goal put United ahead, and dropped Blackpool into the relegation zone, before Michael Owen scored.
The Blackpool manager, Ian Holloway, said a failure to take chances was behind his team's relegation in their first Premier League season. "This is a special group down here and we're very disappointed right now," he said. "After taking the lead, we had started to believe we can do this. You saw the way we played, the chances we created, we've got to take those."
While Blackpool are financially prepared for relegation, Birmingham will face heavy consequences. They were safe for nine second-half minutes after Craig Gardner equalised at Tottenham. But a goal at Wolves moved
Birmingham back into the relegation zone, and Roman Pavlyuchenko's second goal, in stoppage time, gave Spurs a 2-1 victory.
Both relegated teams may well compete in the Europa League next season, despite playing in the Championship. Birmingham qualified in February having won the Carling Cup but Blackpool could well beat Fulham to England's Fair Play place in the competition. The winner will be announced later this week, after taking into account a range of criteria.
The Birmingham manager, Alex McLeish, said he was "obviously pretty gutted" to be relegated. "When we got the equaliser I thought things would go for us – but lady luck has avoided us today," he said. "I've been knocked down today and I'm going to rise to it."
The day's big winners were Wigan Athletic, who were in the relegation zone before the fixtures kicked off but survived thanks to a 1-0 win at Stoke City. They won their final two games, their first back-to-back league wins for two years. Wigan had been set to go down for most of the day but Evatt's own goal at Old Trafford moved them into safety, and Hugo Rodallega's strike lifted them back above the line one minute after Gardner's goal at Tottenham had moved them back down.
Manager Roberto Martinez was delighted with his players. "I'm extremely, extremely proud. I think it has been the hardest Premier League season to stay up – it is an amazing, amazing achievement."
The final relevant game was at Molineux, where Blackburn Rovers went 3-0 up in the first half. Mick McCarthy's Wolves side were set to go down but goals from Jamie O'Hara and Stephen Hunt made the score 3-2 before other results kept them in the top flight.