The biggest upsets in the history of the FA Cup


Luton Town, Fleetwood and Coventry City are among the clubs hoping to claim a Premier League scalp in the FA Cup third round this weekend.

Here, we look at the most famous ‘giant killings’ in the tournament’s history, as lower-league clubs look to write their name in FA Cup folklore.

Chelsea 2 Bradford 4 – Fourth round, 2015

When you’re a third-tier side trailing the Premier League leaders 2-0 after 38 minutes, no one is expecting you to claw your way back into the game.

However, Bradford did just that in their fourth-round encounter with Chelsea in 2015 – at Stamford Bridge no less.

Chelsea v Bradford City - FA Cup Fourth Round

After Gary Cahill and Ramires handed Chelsea a healthy lead, Jon Stead pulled one back before half-time, while Filipe Morais, Andy Halliday and Mark Yeates remarkably turned the game on its head after the break.

Chelsea’s quadruple dreams were dashed, leading then-manager Jose Mourinho to label the loss “a disgrace”.


Hereford 2 Newcastle 1 – Third-round replay, 1972

After battling to a 2-2 draw at St James’ Park, non-league Hereford Town claimed one of the biggest cup shocks with an extra-time winner in the third-round replay at Edgar Street.

Malcolm Macdonald had headed in the opener for Newcastle late on, but on the most awful of surfaces, Ronnie Radford equalised with a 30-yard stunner.

Radford’s goal sparked a mass pitch invasion from the Hereford fans, though it got better for the home supporters in 103rd minute of extra-time, when their one and only substitute, Ricky George, squeezed in the winner.

Cue a second pitch invasion, while they clung on to become the first non-league club to beat a top-flight side in 23 years. Newcastle will hope League Two’s Luton pose fewer problems on Saturday.

Wrexham 2 Arsenal 1 – Third round, 1992

The First Division champions – boasting England internationals David Seaman, Tony Adams and Paul Merson – were no match for fourth-tier Wrexham at the Racecourse Ground in 1992.

A strong Arsenal side had taken the lead when Merson picked out Alan Smith, but a dash of late drama saw Mickey Thomas level in the 82nd minute with a rocket of a free-kick, before Steve Watkin poked home Wrexham’s winner just two minutes later.

Wrexham beat Arsenal FA Cup 3rd Round 1992

Thomas’ stunning equaliser makes just about every ‘Cupset’ showreel going, while Welshman Watkin will forever be remembered as the man who knocked out the English champions, playing for a side 91 league places below.

Wigan 1 Manchester City 0 – Final, 2013

Super sub Ben Watson steered Wigan to a first major trophy in their 81-year history when heading in a last-minute goal against Manchester City in the 2013 final.

It was no more than the Latics deserved, and though they suffered relegation from the Premier League just three days later, they enjoyed a crack at the Europa League the following campaign, while also stunning City once more in the FA Cup quarters.

Wigan lost to eventual 2014 winners Arsenal on penalties in the semi-final, and they will look to kick-start another unlikely run this time around with victory at struggling Bournemouth.

Manchester City v Wigan Athletic - FA Cup Final

Liverpool 0 Wimbledon 1 – Final, 1988

"The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club!"

A nickname was born when BBC commentator John Motson uttered those words at the full-time whistle in 1988.

Many expected newly-crowned Division One champions Liverpool to steamroll Wimbledon, but the Crazy Gang took the momentum of a surprise seventh-placed finish in the league with them to Wembley.

David Beasant of Wimbledon

Lawrie Sanchez’s looping header handed Wimbledon the lead, before Dave Beasant made history when making the first FA Cup final penalty save from John Aldridge.

Captain Beasant went on to lead his side up the famous Wembley steps to lift the club’s first cup, just 11 years after reaching the Football League.

Sutton 2 Coventry 1 – Third round, 1989

League Two outfit Coventry will hope to knock out Premier League side Stoke City on Saturday, though it was the Sky Blues themselves who were the slayed giants back in 1989.

Just 19 months on from shocking Tottenham in the FA Cup final, Coventry, then of the First Division, succumbed to non-league Sutton in the third round.

Sutton United

Captain Tony Rains fired Sutton ahead, and though Coventry soon levelled after the break through David Phillips, Matthew Hanlan wrote his name into the history books with the winner just before the hour-mark.

Sutton evoked memories of their 1989 shock when reaching the fifth round for the first time ever last season, but their dreams of beating Arsenal were merely pie in the sky, with Lucas Perez and Theo Walcott ensuring the upset to end all upsets was avoided.

Sunderland 1 Leeds 0 – Final, 1973

Sunderland became the first Second Division side to lift the trophy in 42 years when Ian Porterfield netted the game’s only goal in the 32nd minute, doing so against a Leeds side who were FA Cup holders amid the club’s greatest era under Don Revie.

Only two second-tier clubs have achieved the feat since (Southampton 1976, West Ham 1980), while it will have been 10 seasons since the last Championship club, Cardiff City, reached an FA Cup final.

Ian Porterfield

The Black Cats begin their cup campaign at north east rivals Middlesbrough on Saturday. Another run would appear unlikely, but this tournament is not short of fairytale stories.

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