FA Cup upsets: 5 of the greatest FA Cup final shocks in history - from Sunderland to Wigan

Wigan defied the odds to lift the FA Cup in 2013. (Getty Images)Wigan defied the odds to lift the FA Cup in 2013. (Getty Images)
Wigan defied the odds to lift the FA Cup in 2013. (Getty Images) | Getty Images
Over the years the FA Cup has seen many of football’s greatest underdog stories and cup runs

The FA Cup is the oldest domestic football competition in the world and remains one of the most prestigious pieces of silverware in English football.

Founded in 1871, the tournament brings together teams from all pyramids of English football from the Premier League all the way down to the non league.

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Given the nature of the footballing competition it is little surprise to see that The FA Cup has become synonymous with upsets with many lower league David’s crushing the Goliath’s of the Premier League.

However, it is much rarer that we see a team outside of the big six go all the way to the final and lift the historic trophy.

Here we take a look at some of the greatest cup final shocks in the last 50 years of the FA Cup.

How many teams have won the FA Cup?

In total there are 43 different teams who have won the FA Cup and it’s little surprise to see that the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool are the most successful in the competition’s history.

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These four clubs have regularly competed at the top of the football pyramid and have been the dominant forces of English football.

Arsenal are the most successful with 14 titles - the last of which came in 2020 against Chelsea.

How many teams have won the FA Cup from outside the top flight?

Premier League clubs have dominated the FA Cup since it was formed in 1871 and of the 150 finals that have taken place just eight of the winners have come from teams outside the top flight of English football.

The last club to achieve this feat was West Ham United back in 1980. Since West Ham’s triumph 44 years ago, only two teams from The Football League have reached the FA Cup final - with Millwall in 2004 and Cardiff in 2008 both falling at the final hurdle. Here are the five of the greatest FA Cup triumphs in the last 51 years.

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Sunderland 1-0 Leeds United (1973)

In the last 51 years only three teams outside the English top-flight have won the FA Cup - the first of those was Sunderland in 1973.

At the time of the 1973 FA Cup final, Leeds were the defending FA Cup champions and one of the most talented teams in English football. Leeds were one of the biggest clubs in the country and were managed by serial winner Don Revie.

The North Yorkshire side possessed a star-studded team featuring the likes Norman Hunter, Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles and were overwhelming favourites to add to their trophy haul.

Sunderland entered the game as underdogs having missed out on promotion from the second tier after a 6th place finish.

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Despite the disparity between the two sides the Wearside club defied expectations by becoming the first lower league side since 1931 to lift the FA Cup. Jim Montgomery was praised for his fine performance in goal and Ian Portfeld scored the winner during a 1-0 win.

Southampton 1-0 Manchester United (1976)

The 1970s proved to be a decade of shocks in the FA Cup and Southampton became the second team from outside the top-flight to lift the historic trophy.

Heading into the game there were several parallels between this cup final and the one that took place in 1973. Manchester United were the clear favourites heading into the game after finishing third in the top flight that season. Meanwhile Southampton, like Sunderland, had finished 6th in the second tier, missing out on promotion.

Southampton defied the odds to win the game 1-0 at Wembley Stadium with Bobby Stokes scoring a late winner.

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West Ham United 1-0 Arsenal (1980)

West Ham United remain the last team outside of the top-flight to win the FA Cup and they did so against defending cup holders Arsenal.

Arsenal were the favourites entering the game and finished 4th in the First Division during the 1979/80 campaign. The Gunners had lifted the trophy the previous season and were viewed as one of the biggest teams in English football.

West Ham United meanwhile were off the pace in the second division and missed out on promotion after a 7th place finish.

The 1980 final was settled by an early Trevor Brooking goal in the first half and the Hammers held on to lift their third FA Cup title.

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Wimbledon 1-0 Liverpool (1988)

The 1988 FA Cup final is one that is still ingrained in the history of FA Cup football.

While Wimbledon and Liverpool may have been playing in the same division at the time - the two teams had been world’s apart in terms of their performances in the league.

Liverpool had been the dominant force in world football during the 1980s lifting The First Division six times, The European Cup twice, The League Cup four times and The FA Cup twice.

Managed by former icon Kenny Dalglish, The Red’s were the reigning FA Cup holders and the First Division winners going into the game. Their team featured the likes of John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, Alan Hansen and many more big name stars.

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Wimbledon had enjoyed an impressive season in the first division in 1987/88 and were the surprise packages after a 7th place finish. Viewed as one of the smallest teams in the division the South West club were dubbed as The Crazy Gang for their ability to mix it up physically and disrupt the balance of play.

The Dons defied the odds in the final and secured their first and only major trophy in their history with a 1-0 win courtesy of a goal from midfielder Lawrie Sanchez.

Wigan Athletic 1-0 Manchester City (2013)

When Wigan Athletic met Manchester City in the 2013 FA Cup final they were two teams moving in very different directions.

Manchester City were the new force of English football and were backed by the wealthiest owners in the world. The Citizens had emerged from the shadows to lift the FA Cup in 2011 and continued this success with their first ever Premier League title a year later in 2012.

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Manchester City finished the 2012/13 season as runners-up in the Premier League and were overwhelming favourites to add to their trophy cabinet.

Meanwhile Wigan Athletic were on a downward spiral - despite a strong showing in the later stages of the season, The Latics were relegated from the Premier League in 2013, ending an eight-year stay in the top-flight.

Wigan came out on top with a 1-0 victory over money-bags Manchester City after a stoppage time winner from substitute midfielder Ben Watson.

The result sent shockwaves throughout English football, it was Wigan’s first ever major trophy and a scoreline that sparked the end for Roberto Mancini’s time as Manchester City boss.

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