Football Breaking Through Chain Net

The Top 6 Premier League Relegation Escapes

We are very much approaching squeaky-bum time in terms of the 2022/23 Premier League season. With four games to go (for most teams) Manchester City are big favourites for the title, Newcastle United and Manchester United should secure top-four finishes, and Southampton are in serious trouble at the bottom. The other two relegation places are far more open, with Everton, Nottingham Forest, Leeds United and Leicester City separated by just a point.

But are we being too hasty in writing off Southampton? Over the years there have been any number of incredible escapes when it has come to avoiding the top. Focussing solely on the Premier League era, we now look at the six most sensational relegation escape acts. These cover a range of different miracles, from ones that began with just 55 minutes of the season, incredible late runs in spring, and even a post-Christmas miracle!

1994: Everton Hit Back With Three Goals On Final Day

Position Before Last Game After Last Game
17 Southampton (42 pts) Everton (44 pts)
18 Sheffield United (42 pts) Southampton (43 pts)
19 Ipswich (42 pts) Ipswich (43 pts)
20 Everton (41 pts) Sheffield United (42 pts)
21 Oldham (39 pts) Oldham (40 pts)
22 Swindon (30pts) Swindon (30 pts)

It ain’t over until the body-confident woman airs her pipes, as the saying doesn’t quite go, and current relegation strugglers Everton will do well to remember that this term. They can certainly draw on the experience of 1994, when they looked down and out after 35 minutes on the final day at Goodison against Wimbledon. The Toffees, champions of England just seven seasons prior, were in the final relegation spot heading into the last day.

They were in serious trouble after conceding just seven minutes in and they must have thought they were dead and buried when an own goal from former Liverpool man Gary Ablett made it 2-0. However, showing the heart and bottle they need to find once again, they fought back, getting into the half-time break at 2-1.

A stunning strike from Barry Horne brought Everton level but they needed to win and time was running out. With less than 10 minutes to go Graham Stuart scored and whilst fingers and accusations have been pointed at Dons keeper Hans Segers, Everton fans won’t care. They won 3-2 and ended the season in the lofty position of 17th (out of 22), with Sheffield United joining long-since relegated Swindon and Oldham Athletic in going down.

2015: Leicester Set Up Title Run With Stunning Finish

Position Before Matchday 32 After Last Game
14 West Brom (33 pts) Leicester (41 pts)
15 Aston Villa (32 pts) Newcastle (39 pts)
16 Sunderland (29 pts) Sunderland (38 pts)
17 Hull (28 ts) Aston Villa (38 pts)
18 QPR (26 pts) Hull (35 pts)
19 Burnley (26 pts) Burnley (33 pts)
20 Leicester (25 pts) QPR (30 pts)

Leicester’s miraculous 2014/15 season was overshadowed by their even more miraculous title win 12 months on. But the foundations were laid with their incredible fightback to avoid relegation. In the end they finished 14th, well clear of the drop on a tidy total of 41 points (what they would give for that in 2023!). However, 31 of those points were garnered from just the opening seven games and then the closing nine matches. Rock bottom from gameweek 13 until they moved into 18th with six games to go, the Foxes won seven of their last nine games, drawing one and losing another.

Nigel Pearson was dismissed before the start of the title-winning campaign but his leadership and brilliance in guiding the East Midlands side to safety will not be forgotten by the supporters. The club carried their momentum right into the following season too and so Pearson, rightly, is given at least some credit for what followed.

2005: Baggies Break Christmas Curse

Position Before Matchday 18 After Last Game
17 Norwich (15 pts) West Brom (34 pts)
18 Crystal Palace (14 pts) Crystal Palace (33 pts)
19 Southampton (13 pts) Norwich (33 pts)
20 West Brom (10 pts) Southampton (32 pts)

West Brom’s 2004/05 relegation escape had it all as they became the first team to beat the Premier League “Christmas curse”. No side bottom on Christmas Day had managed to stay up before but Bryan Robson’s WBA paved the way for others (including Leicester). They won just one of their first 18 games and despite improvement, they were still five points from safety with 10 games to play.

They had tough fixtures too but managed to beat Champions League-chasing Everton and draw with Man United. Even so, they were bottom at the start of the final day and indeed they were still bottom at half time. However, in the end they won 2-0, moving to 34 points, and with Palace only drawing and Saints losing, that was enough to see them finish a point ahead of that relegated duo.

2012: Trusting the Manager Pays off for Wigan

Position Before Matchday 30 After Last Game
15 Aston Villa (33 pts) Wigan (43 pts)
16 Blackburn (28 pts) Aston Villa (38 pts)
17 Bolton (26 pts) QPR (37 pts)
18 QPR (25 pts) Bolton (36 pts)
19 Wigan (25 pts) Blackburn (31 pts)
20 Wolves (22 pts) Wolves (25 pts)

The 2022/23 season has seen more managers sacked than we’ve had hot dinners. For many teams that have pulled the trigger (several of which have done it more than once!), the decision(s) has not paid off. Keeping the faith is bold, brave, and even radical, but that is what Wigan did back in 2011/12.

They started very well, with two draws and a win, but then came a run of eight consecutive defeats and they hit the bottom of the PL pile. Three wins from the next 18 followed but towards the end of that period of the campaign, they were definitely showing signs of life. Even so, despite four draws and a win from six games they were still down in 19th.

What followed was simply stunning, as Roberto Martinez, who could have so easily been sacked in the winter, if not before, guided the Latics to wins over Liverpool, Man United and Arsenal during a run of seven wins from the last nine games of the campaign. That incredible end to the season helped them finish 15th, well clear of relegation.

1993: Oldham Survive on Goal Difference

Position Before Matchday 39 After Last Game
19 Sheffield United (43 pts) Oldham (49 pts)
20 Oldham (40 pts) Crystal Palace (49 pts)
21 Nott’m Forest (40 pts) Middlesbro’ (44 pts)
22 Middlesbro’ (40 pts) Nott’m Forest (40 pts)

In the first season of the Premier League Oldham survived ahead of Crystal Palace on goal difference alone. The pair finished level on 49 points but Oldham’s GD was two better and so it was Palace who joined Boro and Forest in the second tier. With Southampton a point better off than Oldham, Leeds a point and a place better than the Saints and Everton in the bottom half, one might well think not much has changed in 30 years.

Back to Oldham’s miraculous escape from relegation though, and the Greater Manchester club left it late to save themselves. As we moved into May, they were in dire straits, a run of four winless games in April meaning they needed three wins from three and results to go their way. They somehow beat Villa and Liverpool before a 4-3 thriller against Southampton on the final day was enough … but only just!

2007: “Illegal” Tevez Saves Hammers, Infuriates Blades

Position Before Matchday 36 After Last Game
15 Fulham (36 pts) West Ham (41 pts)
16 Sheffield United (35 pts) Fulham (39 pts)
17 Wigan (35 pts) Wigan (38 pts)
18 West Ham (35 pts) Sheffield United (38 pts)
19 Charlton (33 pts) Charlton (34 pts)
20 Watford (24 pts) Watford (28 pts)

West Ham’s escape from relegation is so incredible and memorable for two main reasons. First, their results at the end of the season mean it is easy to argue that they deserved to stay up. They won each of their last four games and seven of the final nine, including huge successes over Man United, Arsenal and Everton (who finished sixth).

Second, the man largely responsible for keeping them up, with seven Premier League goals, many in their fine run, as well as a number of assists and his all-round talismanic character, should not really have even been playing for them. Carlos Tevez was pivotal for the Hammers and even notched the winner against champions Man United on the final day. And yet he was signed in breach of Premier League regulations that forbid third-party ownership. A points deduction, which many felt would have been fair, would probably have seen the Hammers relegated but as it was, Tevez was allowed to play on and their only punishment was financial. But they staved off relegation so we doubt they really cared about that!