Has a team ever lost the Premier League title after starting the final day top? How past race leaders have fared as Arsenal vs. Man City goes to wire

Manchester City were put through the wringer at Tottenham on Tuesday, and three points were not guaranteed until Erling Haaland dispatched a stoppage-time penalty

That made it 2-0 to Pep Guardiola’s side after Haaland broke the deadlock earlier in the second half and substitute goalkeeper Stefan Ortega made a trio of fine saves, including a superb one-on-one stop to deny Son Heung-min.

That now means the equation is simple for City as they chase a fourth consecutive Premier League title this weekend, a feat never accomplished before in the history of English football.

If City beat West Ham at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, their existing two-point lead over Arsenal means they will be champions. However, if City slip up, the Gunners will be right back in the conversation.

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A slender goal-difference advantage of plus one means an Arsenal victory over Everton at Emirates Stadium will give them a first title for 20 years, if City slip up.

The Gunners were the beneficiaries of the most famous final-day turnaround of all time, when they beat leaders Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield in 1989 — with Michael Thomas’ stoppage-time strike snatching the First Division crown.

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In the Premier League era, this will be the 10th time the title fight has gone down to the final day. Here’s what happened on the previous nine occasions.

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1994/95 — Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United

  • Leaders: Blackburn (89 pts)
  • Winners: Blackburn (89 pts) 

Kenny Dalglish became the fourth and still most recent manager to win the English title with two different clubs. But his Blackburn side almost collapsed at the last when they limped to a 2-1 defeat against his former club Liverpool amid a surreal atmosphere at Anfield. A victory for United at West Ham would have seen them pip Blackburn at the post but they could only draw 1-1 at West Ham amid heroics from home goalkeeper Ludek Miklosko.

Blackburn remain the only team to have lost on the final day and won the title with the league on the line. It is also the only time that a final weekend shootout has ended with neither title contender managing to win. 

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1995/96 — Manchester United and Newcastle United

  • Leaders: Man United (79 pts)
  • Winners: Man United (82 pts)

Kevin Keegan’s swashbuckling Newcastle were 12 points clear in January only for Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils to ominously click into clear. Eric Cantona scored the only goal in a pivotal 1-0 win at St James’ Park in March and the Magpies never truly recovered. Tempers became frayed over the final weeks and, with his team needing help from elsewhere, Keegan bellowed “They’ve still got to go to Middlesbrough and get something!” in his infamous “I would love it!” rant.

United duly did, winning 3-0 at the Riverside Stadium as Newcastle limped to a 1-1 home draw against Tottenham, meaning Ferguson’s men finished four points clear.

1998/99 — Manchester United and Arsenal

  • Leaders: Man United (76 pts)
  • Winners: Man United (79 pts)

The first part of United’s historic treble saw them go to the wire with reigning champions Arsenal. Foreshadowing their role earlier this week, Tottenham found themselves as the third wheel and displeased some of their fans by taking the lead at Old Trafford through Les Ferdinand. Ferguson’s men hit back either side of halftime through David Beckham and Andy Cole and Arsenal remained a point in arrears after beating Aston Villa 1-0.

2007/08 — Manchester United and Chelsea

  • Leaders: Man United (84 pts)
  • Winners: Man United (87 pts) 

Chelsea beat United 2-1 at Stamford Bridge with two games remaining to go level on points with the leaders and that situation remained heading into the finale. United’s superior goal difference gave them the edge. Ferguson’s side led through a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty at Wigan, while Andriy Shevchenko put Chelsea in front against Bolton.

Both games remained 1-0 heading into the final 10 minutes but Ryan Giggs effectively sealed the title with United’s second goal before a Matthew Taylor equaliser at Stamford Bridge ensured a two-point difference in the final analysis. There was further misery for Avram Grant and his Chelsea side as they lost the 2008 Champions League final on penalties against United in Moscow 10 days later.

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2009/10 — Chelsea and Manchester United

  • Leaders: Chelsea (83 pts)
  • Winners: Chelsea (86 pts)

Now with Carlo Ancelotti at the helm, Chelsea got their revenge. Their one-point lead going into the final round of fixtures owed much to an April victory at Old Trafford, where a clearly offside Didier Drogba goal was allowed to stand in a 2-1 win. There was none of the jeopardy from two years earlier as United handily beat Stoke 4-0 at Old Trafford, only for Chelsea to demolish Wigan 8-0. Drogba scored a hat-trick and the Blues denied United a record-setting fourth title in a row — the feat City are trying to accomplish this weekend

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2011/12 — Manchester City and Manchester United

  • Leaders: Man City (86 pts)
  • Winners: Man City (89 pts) 

The Premier League’s most famous finale should probably never have even got to that stage. An Easter Sunday loss to a Mikel Arteta goal at Arsenal left City eight points behind their neighbors with six games to play. But United faltered in a defeat at Wigan before a crazy 4-4 draw against Everton. The deficit was three points when Vincent Kompany scored the only goal for City in a high-stakes Manchester derby.

It meant Roberto Mancini’s team went top on goal difference with two to play, and that remained the case on a Sunday etched into sporting folklore. Wayne Rooney scored first for United at Sunderland, although Pablo Zabaleta’s response for City against QPR meant it still looked like a formality for the leaders at halftime. But the Etihad Stadium was aghast as Djibril Cisse and Jamie Mackie put the visitors 2-1 up, despite Joey Barton’s red card.

It stayed that way until stoppage time, when Edin Dzeko headed home David Silva’s corner. It was 2-2 when the final whistle blew at the Stadium of Light. Then Mario Balotelli passed the ball to Sergio Aguero — and you know the rest.

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2013/14 — Manchester City and Liverpool

  • Leaders: Man City (83pts)
  • Winners: Man City (86 pts)

Manuel Pellegrini’s City were playing catchup in terms of games in hand throughout what for a long time was a three-horse race also involving Chelsea. Liverpool’s dramatic collapse to draw at Crystal Palace in the final midweek preceded a 4-0 City win over Aston Villa. It meant they only needed a point against West Ham — incidentally City’s opponents this weekend — and a 2-0 victory rendered Liverpool’s win from behind against Newcastle at Anfield academic.

2018/19 — Manchester City and Liverpool

  • Leaders: Man City (95pts)
  • Winners: Man City (98pts)
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With the greatest respect to Pellegrini and Brendan Rodgers, this was a City vs. Liverpool battle of far higher quality, perhaps the highest the Premier League has ever seen. Both teams were relentless. Jurgen Klopp’s Reds only lost once all season, to City at the Etihad Stadium in January. Guardiola’s men won 13 consecutive games but could not shake Liverpool heading into the final day.

They went 1-0 down to Brighton before running out 4-1 winners. Liverpool beat Wolves 2-0 to finish second on 97 points.

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2021/22 — Manchester City and Liverpool

  • Leaders: Man City (90pts)
  • Winners: Man City (93pts)

A decade on from Aguero’s finest hour, City again diced with final-day disaster but came out with the trophy. Again Liverpool broke through 90 points and missed out by a point to Guardiola’s brilliant false-nine vintage.

The toll of another unflinching battle was clear to see on the last Sunday, with Wolves and Aston Villa each taking first-half leads at Anfield and Etihad respectively. Sadio Mane cancelled out Pedro Neto’s goal but City still trailed to Steven Gerrard’s Villa and the narrative flourish felt irresistible when former Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho doubled their lead with 20 minutes remaining.

But Ilkay Gundogan came off the bench to spark a crazy spell of three City goals in five minutes. Rodri equalised before the Germany midfielder tapped home Kevin De Bruyne’s cross to spark unbridled bedlam. Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson’s goals to seal Liverpool’s own win came as Anfield absorbed the bad news.


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