Premier League final days ranked: From Sergio Aguero's Manchester City winner to Carlos Tevez saving West Ham

Which top-flight season had the best final day? Miguel Delaney takes a trip down memory lane...

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The Independent Sport

A league system is by far the optimum way to decide the best team, given how it the length and depth of a season tests every element of a squad, but it isn’t always the optimum way to guarantee excitement in the climax.

This season feels a case in point, given that the last day requires the relatively unlikely scenarios of Watford beating Manchester City or Liverpool dropping points at home to Middlesbrough for any tension or sense of life.

Even then, it’s for Champions League participation rather than the truly meaningful prizes of preserving a place in the division or the title itself.

It says much about how rare it is for the stars to align and the race to go right to the last day that it has only happened seven times in 25 years.

The flipside is that when it does happen, however, it tends to offer up drama and incident to trump any cup finals. The rarity value only further charges it, the idea that nine months can somehow come down to a few seconds, and it has led to a few fantastic final days…

Five key moments that won Chelsea the title

10. 2006-07

On the line: One relegation place, three Uefa Cup places

One of the most chaotic but also controversial final days, with Carlos Tevez scoring the goal for a 1-0 win at champions Manchester United that kept West Ham United up. The signing of the Argentine had breached third-party ownership rules, however, resulting in West Ham having to pay compensation to Sheffield United - but no points deduction.

That rumbled on for years, but the day itself saw even more more drama as the Blades could still have kept themselves up by avoiding defeat in an effective relegation play-off with Wigan Athletic. At the same moment as Tevez struck, however, David Unsworth scored the penalty for Wigan for a 2-1 win that sent United down.

9. 2007-08

On the line: The title, two relegation places, one Uefa Cup place

One of Ferguson's great United teams clinched the title at Wigan (Getty)

The start of one great feat, the culmination of one great escape. United were again going for a double of league and Champions League, fighting it out with Chelsea for the title, before meeting the Stamford Bridge side in Moscow for the continental showpiece. Cristiano Ronaldo’s early penalty against Wigan Athletic rendered Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Bolton Wanderers irrelevant before Ryan Giggs sealed it.

By then, a lot of attention had turned to Portsmouth, as Danny Murphy’s 76th-minute header made it an improbable four wins out of five for Fulham at a point of the season when it seemed inevitable they would be relegated, and instead sent Reading and Birmingham City down. Both of the latter had been winning comfortably, against Derby County and Blackburn Rovers respectively, but couldn’t feel comfortable all day - as Murphy eventually confirmed why.

8. 1996-97

On the line: One Champions League place, two relegation places, one Uefa Cup place

Five teams were looking to avoid two relegation places on the final day, with all of that complicated by the fact an expensively-assembled Middlesbrough had been docked three points for failing to fulfil a team against Blackburn Rovers. They couldn’t fulfil obligation and claim the win they needed on this day, only drawing 1-1 with Leeds United, and leading to tears on the pitch from the hugely popular Juninho.

There were only wild cheers at White Hart Lane, as Coventry City - seeming like certainties to go down at the start of the day - claimed a 2-1 win to also relegate and leave Coventry manager Gordon Strachan dancing across the pitch. It also meant Everton’s 2-1 defeat to Chelsea was irrelevant, but Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday was not. Ahead of the first season of a newly expanded Champions League, it meant they fell from second to fourth, as Newcastle United claimed the spot ahead of both them and Arsenal.

7. 2004-05

Robson's West Brom beat the odds and the drop (Getty)

On the line: Three relegation places, one Uefa Cup place

This relegation battle involved a mere four clubs, but the considerable twist was that three of them were in the relegation places going into the final day.

Norwich City were the only side who weren’t, but they still ended up going down with Southampton and Crystal Palace after an utterly pitiful 6-0 defeat to Fulham, as West Brom secured a 2-0 win over Portsmouth to go from 20th to safety but also become the first Premier League club bottom at Christmas to stay up. 

6. 2010-11

On the line: Two relegation places, one Europa League place

Another of those glorious survival days when it was impossible to know where exactly to look - except down. It was also another where five clubs were looking to avoid two places, with a point separating Wigan in 19th and Blackburn Rovers in 15th.

The small margins mattered. Although Blackburn beat Wolves at Molineux 3-2, Stephen Hunt’s late curler for the latter actually ensured they stayed up on mere goal difference, along with Rovers. Wigan Athletic meanwhile claimed a 1-0 away to Stoke City to secure another unlikely survival, and send Birmingham City and Blackpool down.

5. 2002-03

On the line: One Champions League place, one relegation place, one Uefa Cup place

The day that changed Chelsea’s history, and that indicated Sam Allardyce’s future. The London club beat Liverpool 2-1 in a Champions League play-off, to not just save themselves from financial crisis by qualifying, but also ensure Roman Abramovich would buy the Blues that summer.

Despite a late rally, meanwhile, West Ham United could only draw 2-2 at Birmingham City, meaning Bolton Wanderers stayed up with a 2-1 home win over Middlesbrough. It was the first of Allardyce’s survivals, but not the last of Robbie Savage’s misdemeanours. One of the images of the day was him goading West Ham’s Rufus Brevett.

4. 1995-96

United triumphed in the 1990s most memorable title race (Getty)

On the line: The title, one relegation place, one Uefa Cup place

Manchester United completed one of the most memorable title comebacks with a 3-0 win away to Middlesbrough to claim the trophy, but that run-in will really be remembered for Kevin Keegan’s ‘I will love it’ rant a few weeks prior.

The last-day relegation battle will always be remembered for a similar piece of farce, however, as Manchester City kept the ball in the corner at the end of a 2-2 draw against Liverpool despite the fact they still needed a goal to stay up. The players had evidently been misinformed about events elsewhere as Coventry City and Southampton both only had 0-0 draws at home to Leeds United and Wimbledon, respectively. Cue substituted Niall Quinn desperately trying to tell the City players. It wasn’t enough. City were down.

3. 1993-94

On the line: Two relegation places

Given that Oldham Athletic were effectively relegated due to goal difference, there was really only one place left to be decided, but rarely can the battle for survival have seen so much drama; so many twists; so many sensational events - and all crammed into one afternoon. Four clubs were looking to avoid that last place, and it seemed for so long certain the one that would miss out would be Everton, who were at one point 2-0 down to Wimbledon.

Graham Stuart’s goal somehow made it 3-2 on 81 minutes, meaning it was then all doom and gloom for Ipswich Town, drawing 0-0 at Blackburn Rovers... only for Chelsea to make it 2-2 away to Sheffield United and send the Blades down. United had at one point on the day been four clear of relegation, and with Ipswich, Southampton and Everton between them. All changed. All was so charged.

2. 1994-95

Blackburn bottled it, but then so did Ferguson's United (Getty)

On the line: The title, one relegation place, two Uefa Cup places

A day that still defies belief, as Ludek Miklosko so improbably defied Manchester United again, and again and again. Alex Ferguson’s side had reeled Blackburn Rovers back in that season despite Eric Cantona’s notorious suspension for leaping into the crowd at Selhurst Park, and the Old Trafford boss predicted Kenny Dalglish’s side would “bottle it” as they got to the line.

So they did, and that with the twist of Dalglish’s team losing a lead to lose 2-1 to his old club Liverpool at Anfield. United, however, couldn’t live up to their end either. It wasn’t for want of trying. Drawing 1-1 at West Ham United having earlier gone behind themselves, United set up the kind of intense siege that the Premier League has never seen but they just couldn’t beat Miklosko. A remarkable amount of chances were wasted, although neither Liverpool nor West Ham wasted the chance to celebrate with Blackburn at United’s expense.

1. 2011-12

On the line: The title, two Champions League places, one relegation place

You’ll never see anything like this, went the famous line on the day, and the Premier League never has - either before or since. This was a day with almost everything on the line, that fittingly went right to the line, right to the final seconds.

Just as City thought they were finished and left to lament the same old feelings, Edin Dzeko and - most sensationally- Sergio Aguero gave them unique emotions in a unique moment to beat Queens Park Rangers 3-2 thanks to two stoppage-time goals.

It’s almost forgotten now that Joey Barton had earlier been sent off for an altercation on a day so rich with drama, although 10-man QPR still stayed up due to the fact Bolton Wanderers could only draw 2-2 at Stoke City.