It is well-established that the magic of the FA Cup lies in its unique inclusivity. Almost any team in the country can participate and battle it out with a Premier League giant if they progress far enough.

Lower-league sides might be undeniable underdogs when they face the biggest names in the game, but we’ve taken a trip down memory lane to re-live some of the most dramatic upsets in the world’s oldest competition in football…

Liverpool 0-1 Wimbledon – 1988

There seemed only one inevitable outcome in the 1988 FA Cup final. Newly crowned champions Liverpool, who were the unstoppable giants of English football at the time, were expected to stroll past Wimbledon at Wembley, having lost only two games in Division One that year.

But a looping header from Lawrie Sanchez put the Dons in front following a disallowed goal for the Reds, and Wimbledon’s goalkeeper Dave Beasant made history with the first ever penalty save in an FA Cup final. To the disbelief of even their own fans, the South London side clung onto their lead for the entire 90 minutes. This almighty upset prevented Kenny Dalglish’s side from making more history that day, as a victory would have made Liverpool the first team ever to win the double twice.

Manchester United 0-1 Leeds United – 2010

They may be two of the biggest rivals in football, but when Manchester United and Leeds United met at Old Trafford in 2010, 42 league places and two divisions stood between them. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were champions and would go on to retain the title that year, while Leeds were battling for promotion to the Championship. The result seemed set in stone long before kick-off.

But Leeds rattled the roaring crowd that day, matching United throughout and booking a place in the fourth-round with a belter from Jermaine Beckford. It was the first time in history the Red Devils had exited the competition in the third-round, never before having been knocked out by a lower-league side. January 3rd, the day the momentous occasion took place, is still celebrated by Leeds fans to this day.

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Sunderland 1-0 Leeds United – 1973

In 1973 Leeds United were one of the most dominant sides in English football. They travelled to Wembley as cup holders and were expected to sweep second division Sunderland aside and make it two-in-a-row. But the Black Cats had overcome Arsenal in the semi-final and battled fearlessly in the face of their illustrious opponents. A clean strike from Ian Porterfield gave Sunderland the edge, but it was a miraculous string of goalkeeping saves and defensive heroics that denied Leeds the expected equaliser.

The emphatic upset was the first time a second tier side had lifted the trophy since 1931 and remains Sunderland’s only major final victory since World War Two, resulting in the recording of their very own FA Cup song, Sunderland All the Way.

 Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal – 1992

Arsenal took a trip to Wales for their first game in the 1991/92 FA Cup, and as favourites to win the cup. The First Division champions had only lost one game the previous season, while Wrexham had finished bottom of the entire Football League, escaping relegation to non-league football only by the fortune of league expansion.

81 minutes into the tie it was all going to plan for the North London side, as Wrexham trailed 1-0. But two late goals within two minutes of each other saw one of the most memorable turnarounds of all-time, as the Fourth Division side scraped through the dying moments of the game to hold onto their 2-1 lead. When the final whistle blew, fans poured onto the pitch to celebrate a historic victory over the almighty Gunners. Arsenal’s manager George Graham described the defeat as his “lowest moment in football”.

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Chelsea 2-4 Bradford - 2015

In 2015, League One Bradford City stunned Stamford Bridge in one of the greatest upsets, and comebacks, of FA Cup history. The Bantams were 2-1 down at half-time, but three electric goals in the last 15 minutes of play left Jose Mourinho’s side lost for words, forcing a premature exit from the competition in what was their first home loss of the entire season.

The 2014/15 FA Cup fourth round saw a wave of shock results, with only one of the ‘big six’ winning on their first attempt. The same day Bradford shocked Chelsea, Middlesbrough knocked out Premier League champions Manchester City. The historic handful of matches served as a reminder that the FA Cup is the competition for the underdog.

Shrewsbury Town 2-1 Everton – 2003

The result at New Meadow in 2003 was barely the most shocking part of the game. Shrewsbury dominated David Moyes’ side, which featured 17-year-old Wayne Rooney, throughout, despite The Shrews lying 80 places below Everton in the lower reaches of the League Two.

Shrewsbury boss Kevin Ratcliffe had once been Everton’s most successful captain, saying afterwards that he “had a feeling we could do something” that day. The Welsh international admits he still owns a DVD of the iconic match, which has pride of place in his living room.

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