The Closest Title Races In Premier League History

The Closest Title Races In Premier League History
© PA

Arguably the most dramatic championship finish in English football took place at Anfield in May 1989, when Liverpool only needed to avoid losing 2-0 or more at home to their nearest rivals Arsenal to win the old First Division title.

After conceding a goal to Alan Smith seven minutes into the second half, things were were on a knife edge for the majority of the restart. Eventually, with time running out, Michael Thomas scored in injury time to seal an improbable championship for George Graham's Gunners.

In terms of drama, not even Sergio Aguero's late winner for Manchester City against QPR in 2012 can compare to Thomas' winner at Anfield - this was the two title contenders going head-to-head on the final day with all to play for, an extreme rarity.

That is not to say that the Premier League has not had its fair share of final-day showdowns though. Since the 1992 inception of the breakaway division, the title race has gone down to the final day of the season eight times.

Premier League Judgement Days

  • 1994/95: Blackburn won the title by 1 point over Manchester United
  • 1995/96: Manchester United won the title by 4 points over Newcastle
  • 1998/99: Manchester United won the title by 1 point over Arsenal
  • 2007/08: Manchester United won the title by 2 points over Chelsea
  • 2009/10: Chelsea won the title by 1 point over Manchester United
  • 2011/12: Manchester City won the title on goal difference over Manchester United
  • 2013/14: Manchester City won the title by 2 points over Liverpool
  • 2018/19: Manchester City won the title by 1 point over Liverpool

The first occasion was at the end of the 1994/95 season when Blackburn went into their final day fixture at Liverpool, two points clear of Manchester United who needed to beat West Ham at Upton Park to win their third successive title.

But Hammers goalkeeper Ludek Miklosko continually frustrated United with a string of vital saves in a game that finished goalless. Blackburn lost 2-1 at Anfield, but they still managed to get their hands on the trophy for the first and only time.

The following season saw United and Newcastle go head-to-head on the final day of the season.

Newcastle's 12-point advantage earlier in the season was wiped out by United who held a two-point lead over Kevin Keegan's side at the start of the final day.

The Red Devils took care of business with a comfortable 3-0 win at Middlesbrough while the Magpies were held to a 1-1 draw at St James' Park by Tottenham to hand United their third title in four seasons.

The last dramatic climax of the 20th century came in May 1999 when the Premier League trophy was headed to either Old Trafford or Arsenal's Highbury.

Manchester United were playing with the burden of trying to become the first English team to win the treble – the league, FA Cup and European Cup.

The first leg of that historic achievement came at home to Tottenham while the Gunners hosted Aston Villa. Arsenal were given a helping hand by their arch rivals Spurs who took the lead before United levelled through David Beckham just before half-time.

Andy Cole's goal early in the second half gave United the advantage they needed and held on to win the title by a point as Arsenal ended their campaign with a 1-0 win.

9-Year Wait For Another

The league had to wait until 2008 for the first dramatic finish of the 21st century. For the third successive season, United and Chelsea were battling it out for the title.

It was also the first time in the history of the Premier League in which two sides went into their final game level on points with goal difference giving United the slimmest of advantages.

United knew victory at Wigan would secure their 10th Premier League title while Chelsea needed to beat Bolton and hope their rivals dropped points at the JJB Stadium.

A Cristiano Ronaldo penalty just after the half hour mark set United on their way with Ryan Giggs adding a second 10 minutes from time to end Chelsea's championship challenge.

Two seasons later, the same two teams contested the title. But this time, it was the Blues who held the upper hand with a one-point cushion over the Red Devils.

Wigan again played a role on the final day providing the opposition for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

A sixth minute goal from Nicolas Anelka eased any worries Chelsea may have had and Gary Caldwell's dismissal made life a lot easier for Carlo Ancelotti's side who went on to wrap up the title with an 8-0 win.

United's 4-0 win over Stoke at Old Trafford was in vain as the Blues celebrated their third Premier League title on home soil.


Aguero The City Saviour

But perhaps the most storied title race was decided on May 13, 2012 when the two Manchester clubs fought for the right to be called champions.

Both clubs were tied on 86 points after 37 rounds of fixtures, but what happened in the final 90 minutes will live long in the memory of City supporters everywhere.

Wayne Rooney gave the Red Devils a 20th minute lead at Sunderland which swung the title United's way.

Pablo Zabaleta's goal put City in control against Queens Park Rangers and the Citizens were within touching distance of their first domestic title since 1968.

But City fans, who were used to being put through the mills since that title win, were put through the wringer once more as QPR, battling to stay in the league, stunned the hosts by scoring twice to lead 2-1.

It was a lead they held going into injury time. United's game at Sunderland ended in a 1-0 win and as they acknowledged their fans afterwards, the most dramatic end to a season unfolded.

Edin Dzeko's equaliser sent the Etihad crazy and there was plenty of time for the most famous commentary since Kenneth Wolstenhome uttered the words 'They think it's all over, it is now' in July 1966 as England won the World Cup on home soil.

Martin Tyler, the voice of the Premier League, described the denouement with one word, or rather, one name 'A-G-U-E-R-O-O-O-O-O!'

It was the first time since Arsenal's last-gasp glory 23 years earlier, that the title had been decided by goal difference.

Once City had secured their first Premier League title, three more followed in the next seven seasons and two of those went to the wire.

Aguero At It Again

Two years after writing his name in City's folklore, Sergio Aguero and his City team-mates were popping bottles of Champagne on the final day of the season to mark their second Premier League title, but only after another nerve-wrecking afternoon.

Liverpool were their nearest rivals this time and Manuel Pellegrini's side led the league by two points ahead of Judgement Day.

Liverpool came from a goal down to beat Newcastle 2-1 but it didn't matter as City held their nerve to beat West Ham 2-0 at the Etihad.

The most recent season to boil down to the final day was two seasons ago. City, now with Pep Guardiola in charge, were leading the race after 37 matches by a point from Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool.

All City had to do was win their final game at Brighton and the glory was theirs once again. However, after 27 minutes, the title looked to be heading to Anfield with Liverpool a goal up against Wolves at Anfield while City trailed by the same score.

But things did not stay that way for long. Straight from the kick-off following Glenn Murray's goal, City equalised through Aguero who proved once again he was the man for the big occasion.

Three more goals followed as City finished the cream of the crop to deny Liverpool the title despite the Reds losing just one league game all season.

All those dramatic season finishes were contested by two teams who started the final day of the season with a chance of winning the Premier League title.

With more games kicking off with staggered times, the lead is likely to change on a regular basis between now and the scheduled final day of the season on Sunday, May 23.

Three different teams could lead the Premier League this week and with four more clubs separated by just two points, it promises to be a thrilling second half of the season which could be decided on the final day of the season once again.

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