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Remembering the greatest ever Premier League relegation battle

Chelsea ran away with the Premier League title in 2004/05, finishing 12 points clear of Arsenal in Jose Mourinho's debut season at the helm. Everton ultimately finished just three points clear of Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers in the final Champions League qualification spot, but they had already secured a top-four finish before the 38th game of the campaign.

On the final weekend, then, all eyes were on the bottom of the table. It was an unprecedented situation. For the first time in the division's history, no team's fate had been sealed ahead of the campaign's denouement. All three relegation spots had yet to be filled, and four teams were desperately battling to avoid them. Only one would be celebrating come the end of the day.

The advantage at the start of the day belonged to Norwich City. A narrow, nervy 1-0 triumph over Birmingham City the previous weekend meant they were the only team with their fate in their own hands. Nigel Worthington's side were also in fantastic form, having appeared to be dead and buried back at the start of April. A run of four wins and a draw in their next six outings meant victory over Fulham - a side who had nothing left to play for - would guarantee their survival.

"We must focus. People are saying it is an £18m game or whatever the price tag might be. Not for me," Worthington said ahead of his team's date with destiny at Craven Cottage.

"It is about staying in the Premiership and thereafter what comes with that - the money, the prestige - is secondary. It is about managing in the Premiership, playing in the Premiership and this football club being in the Premiership. That's the number one priority."

Hoping to take advantage of any Norwich slip-up at Craven Cottage were Southampton. They trailed the Canaries by a point but had a tricky final-day encounter against Manchester United on the horizon. Crystal Palace, who were level with Saints on points but had an inferior goal difference, faced cross-city rivals Charlton Athletic, a club who consider the Eagles to be among their biggest adversaries. Palace would have been in Norwich's position had they held on to beat Southampton in their previous outing, but Danny Higginbotham's dramatic late goal earned Harry Redknapp's men a point at Selhurst Park.

It was West Bromwich Albion who had everything to do. They began the day rooted to the foot of the table, knowing that they had to beat Portsmouth and hope that none of their relegation rivals emerged victorious. Overcoming Pompey, who had only recently pulled away from danger themselves, was the easier part of the equation, particularly as supporters of the south-coast side were happy to see their team to lose if it harmed Southampton's chances of survival.

It was Southampton who made the best start on Sunday 15 May. They took the lead against Manchester United through a John O'Shea own goal, and although the Red Devils soon hit back to equalise, Brian McBridge's effort for Fulham against Norwich kept Saints in the all-important 17th place. 

Norwich soon fell 2-0 behind, while Charlton drew first blood against Palace. This was suddenly looking like a dream day for Southampton, who were on course to survive as half-time whistles blew up and down the country.

There were still plenty of twists and turns to come, however, and the situation suddenly looked very different early on in the second half. First, Norwich conceded a third to Fulham, giving them a mountain to climb in their battle against the drop. Next, Dougie Freedman found the net for Palace to bring them level against Charlton, before Geoff Horsfield's strike broke the deadlock at The Hawthorns in West Brom's favour. The Baggies, as things stood, were off the bottom and into 17th place.

Southampton conceded again to United a few minutes later, leaving them trailing 2-1. That was excellent news for West Brom, but Bryan Robson's charges were dealt a blow soon after when an Andy Johnson penalty put Palace ahead at The Valley. Iain Dowie's side had only won one away game all season but were now on course to triumph over Charlton and, unless Norwich scored four times or Southampton twice, retain their Premier League status.

Elsewhere a pitiful performance from Norwich saw them go 4-0 down to Fulham, while West Brom doubled their advantage against Portsmouth. All eyes were now on south London, where the Baggies were desperately hoping for a Charlton leveller. Unless Southampton could mount a memorable comeback against United, it was now a straight shoot-out for survival between West Brom and Palace.

There was only one more relevant goal that afternoon (Norwich also managed to concede twice more to lose 6-0, a truly dismal result given their favourable situation at the start of the day), and it went to Charlton. In the 84th minute at The Valley, Jonathan Fortune headed home to make it 2-2 and leave Palace needing another goal. They almost got it in stoppage time courtesy of Freedman, who had scored Palace's first and won the penalty for the second, only for Dean Kiely to pull off a tremendous save. Against all the odds, West Brom were safe. 

"This is the best," Robson replied when asked where the achievement ranked among others from his career. Given that he won two Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the Cup Winners' Cup at Manchester United - not to mention playing 90 times for England - that is quite the statement.

"When you're at Manchester United, you're expected to win championships and trophies. You're playing with great players. There's expectation here but it was that everyone expected us to go down. When you go behind in the Premiership you're always playing a catch-up game.

"I always felt we had a chance because the away form of the other teams down there was not the best and Southampton had a tough game. I always felt that if we could win, we could stay up."

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