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Top ten drop battles

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  • 5 counts down ten of the most memorable scraps for survival ahead of Sunday's action

This season's relegation battle has been one of the most intriguing in the history of the Premier League, with at least half the teams in the division embroiled in the scrap for survival at some stage.

West Ham became the first side condemned to the drop last weekend but five others remain in the mix, separated by just a point, heading into the final day this Sunday.

Drama and tension is guaranteed across the country and by 6pm there will be both celebration and sadness, but for the neutral it promises to be an exciting spectacle.

To mark the occasion counts down ten of the most memorable relegation battles.

North East nightmare

The last time the Premier League relegation battle went down to the final day was two years ago, when Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Hull City and Sunderland found themselves still in danger after an agonising run-in for their supporters. All four sides suffered defeat on a nervy afternoon, with the Magpies' 1-0 loss to Aston Villa ending their 16-year stay in the top flight and North East rivals Middlesbrough also bowing out after going down 2-1 to West Ham. Sunderland survived despite being beaten 3-2 by Chelsea and Hull City also stayed up with 35 points. The Tigers lost 1-0 to Manchester United and would have gone down had it not been for results elsewhere, but that did not dampen the spirits of manager Phil Brown, who celebrated by singing an impromptu version of the Beach Boys classic Sloop John B.

Fantastic Fulham

Fulham provided the main story in 2008 with an astonishing great escape that Harry Houdini might have considered impossible. Roy Hodgson replaced Lawrie Sanchez midway through the campaign but the Cottagers still looked dead and buried with just a few weeks to go. A run of four victories from their final five games, including a remarkable 3-2 comeback win at Manchester City, eventually kept Fulham in the top flight. Danny Murphy's late header against Portsmouth secured their survival and sent Birmingham and Reading down despite final day wins of their own. Derby had been relegated much earlier, by the end of March in fact, and finished with just one win and 11 points.

Terrific Tevez

West Ham embarked on a sensational late burst in 2007 to stay up in controversial fashion, having not been docked points over the registration of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. To make matters worse for their rivals it was Tevez who emerged as an inspirational figure during the run-in, scoring against future employers Manchester United to retain the Hammers' top-flight status. Wigan also avoided the drop courtesy of a dramatic final day victory over fellow strugglers Sheffield United, who were joined in the Championship the following year by Charlton and Watford.

Baggies bounce back

West Brom defied the odds in 2004/05 by becoming the first ever Premier League side to be bottom at Christmas and avoid the drop. The Baggies had still been in the relegation zone entering into the final day of the season but ran out 2-0 winners over Portsmouth at The Hawthorns thanks to goals from Geoff Horsfield and on-loan midfielder Kieran Richardson. They also needed three other results to go their way but that is precisely what happened, with Norwich and Southampton both losing and Charlton grabbing a late 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace that sealed the demise of Iain Dowie's Eagles and kept West Brom up despite only collecting 34 points.

Wetherall winner

Bradford were written off as relegation fodder before the start of the 1999/2000 season after earning promotion the previous season, but acquitted themselves well to remain in with a chance heading into the final day. It was only a slim chance, though, as the mighty Liverpool travelled to Valley Parade. Wimbledon were also level on points with the Bantams and had a superior goal difference, but David Wetherall scored a powerful header for Bradford and Paul Jewell's side clung on for a famous 1-0 victory. Wimbledon slipped to a 2-0 defeat at Southampton and finished in the bottom three along with Sheffield Wednesday and Watford.

Sky Blues survive

Going into the last game of the 1996/97 season, Coventry were sitting in the final relegation spot of the Premiership, but Gordon Strachan's side were not to be denied against Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Goals from Dion Dublin and Paul Williams gave the Sky Blues a 2-0 lead before Paul McVeigh's effort on the stroke of half-time reduced the arrears. Goalkeeper Steve Ogrizovic then produced late heroics with fantastic saves from Neale Fenn and Jason Dozzell to pull off another great escape for Coventry, who had stayed up on the final day nine times in 30 seasons. They would have gone down had Sunderland managed to win, or indeed if Middlesbrough had not been deducted three points for cancelling a fixture against Blackburn.

Everton escape

There was another nervy final day in 1993/94 when Everton, after 40 years in the top flight, were staring relegation squarely in the face going into their clash with Wimbledon at Goodison Park. And the game could not have started worse for the Toffees with a Dean Holdsworth penalty and Gary Ablett own goal giving the visitors a 2-0 lead. Graham Stuart's spot-kick gave the home fans hope before Barry Horne's 30-yard stunner levelled the scores and Stuart struck again to cap an incredible turnaround. A number of teams had been in trouble ahead of kick-off and it was Sheffield United and Oldham who joined Swindon in the relegation places.

Palace despair

There may have been 22 teams in the first season of the Premier League in 1992/93 but to suffer relegation when you have accumulated 49 points is still quite unfortunate. Crystal Palace were breathing fairly easily with just one week left as they led Oldham by eight points, but the Latics managed to secure three victories in a row to survive courtesy of a superior goal difference. Oldham's final success was a nail-biting 4-3 triumph against Southampton, while Palace were thrashed 4-0 by Arsenal. Middlesbrough had already gone down following an alarming slump during the second half of the season, while Nottingham Forest finished bottom.

Eagles ecstasy

It was Crystal Palace's turn to experience the joy of last-gasp survival 12 months ago, when they managed to stay afloat in the Championship despite being plunged into crisis off the pitch. A 10-point deduction for entering administration left the Eagles battling the drop, and a quirk of the schedule pitted them against relegation rivals Sheffield Wednesday on the final day, with only one place up for grabs. Wednesday needed to win at Hillsborough to stay up and condemn their opponents to the drop in the process. However, in a fractious encounter, Palace twice went in front and hung on in the final stages after Darren Purse had brought the Owls level for a second time with three minutes to go.

Great Glass

A moment that has become part of Football League folklore, as the battle to avoid relegation to the non-league wilderness went down to the final seconds of the season. You certainly could not have written a better script if you tried as Carlisle's on-loan goalkeeper Jimmy Glass scored with virtually the last kick of the game to give the Cumbrians a priceless 2-1 win over Plymouth at Brunton Park, relegating Scarborough after they could only manage a 1-1 home draw with Peterborough. Scarborough FC's first relegation proved the beginning of the end as they folded in June 2007 with debts of £2.5million.

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