Top five: Great Escapes
With one Premier League game left and one relegation spot still open GMF looks at the top five great escapes
Wigan Athletic's unlikely dash for Premier League safety was as improbable as it was remarkable. Slumped at the foot of the Premier League table and seemingly devoid of all hope, Roberto Martinez masterminded one of the greatest relegation escapes in recent memory.
But Premier League history tells us that often one team, against all odds, manages to string together a run of results to lift themselves from near-certain relegation. From West Brom's original "Great Escape" to West Ham's dramatic victory at Old Trafford, teams seem to find form at just the right time, casting aside a season of poor form and rotten luck to ensure survival on the final day.
Wigan's victory over Blackburn condemned Rovers to relegation, extinguishing Steve Kean's slim hopes of a great escape of his own. Instead Martinez led his side to safety, in circumstances even more dramatic than their final day heroics last year against Stoke. That day Hugo Rodellega popped up with the winner. Last night Wigan's new hero was Antolin Alcaraz but the result remains the same - Wigan survive to enjoy an eighth consecutive season of top flight football.
After such an unlikely escape, GMF counts down the top five Premier League relegation Houdini acts.
5. Southampton 1998-1999
Saints could appear on this list at least three times so frequent were their last minute escapes but their 1999 survival remains their most dramatic. Dave Jones' side went into the final game of the season knowing victory over Everton would keep them up. Anything else, combined with a Charlton victory, would see the south coast side relegated from the Premier League for the first time.
Southampton had occupied the relegation zone for almost the entire season after picking up just 14 points from a possible 60 to start the campaign. However, a five game unbeaten run, including three wins in their final three matches, kept them up at the expense of the Addicks, whose brief Premier League stay lasted just a single season.
4. Bradford 1999-2000
Bradford returned to the top flight for the first time in 77 years in 1999 and almost went straight back down. The Bantams went into their final game of the season needing a result against Liverpool as they battled with Wimbledon to avoid the final relegation spot.
Unfortunately for Bradford, the Reds also needed a result to secure a Champions League spot, giving the Dons hope the Merseyside club would do them a favour at Valley Parade. However, a first-half David Wetherall strike was enough to save Bradford, ending Wimbledon's 14-year stay in the top flight and beginning their slide into oblivion. Paul Jewell, who led Bradford to their final day escape, promptly resigned a few days later to take over Sheffield Wednesday and the Bantams were relegated the year after.
3. West Ham United 2006-2007
The Hammers sat rock bottom of the table in March, 10 points off safety and facing possible fines and points deductions over the Carlos Tevez/Javier Mascherano signings. A season which had begin with such optimism after the signings of the Argentine pair threatened to end in disaster for the London club.
Mercifully for the Upton Park faithful, and cruelly for Neil Warnock's Sheffield United side, a Carlos Tevez goal against his future employers Manchester United at Old Trafford sealed their survival. The Hammers had gone on a remarkable run, winning seven of their final nine games to secure their safety. The Yorkshire club sensed foul play and the Hammers were forced to pay compensation over Tevez and Mascherano's third-party ownership. However, for the east London club Premier League safety was secured.
2. Wigan Athletic 2011-2012
The Latics survived by the skin of their teeth in 2010-11 and repeated the trick this season. They somehow found themselves in an even more desperate situation than last year after a run of eight consecutive defeats left them cast adrift and written off before Christmas.
Victory at Anfield in March proved to be the catalyst and Wigan went on to beat Manchester United, Arsenal, Newcastle and Stoke before a 1-0 win over Blackburn secured their safety with a game to spare. It may not have gone down to the final day but never has such a team looked so hopelessly destined for relegation before recovering to preserve their Premier League status.
1. West Bromwich Albion 2004-2005
The Baggies have been the dictionary definition of a "yo-yo" club since returning to the top flight in 2001. The West Midlands team have been promoted and relegated three times in the past 12 years but it was their 2004-05 season which was their most memorable.
Under the management of former-Albion midfielder Bryan Robson, West Brom became the first club in Premier League history to avoid the drop having been bottom of the Premier League table at Christmas. A run of three defeats in their last 12 games gave Albion hope going into their final day against already safe Portsmouth.
All three relegation spots were still available going into the final day, as "Survival Sunday" saw four clubs still scrapping for their lives for the first time in Premier League history. Southampton, Crystal Palace and Norwich all failed to win, and a 2-0 victory over Portsmouth at the Hawthorns secured West Brom's unlikely salvation. The original great escape.