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Feb 18, 2011

The FA Cup's Greatest Matches

We at ESPNsoccernet will be taking you through the season with a series of FA Cup features detailing the highlights of the competition's long and proud history. Here is a selection of the games that have entered FA Cup lore as some of the very best that weren't played in a final.

• Vote for your FA Cup all-time best XI
• FA Cup's Greatest Goalkeepers
• FA Cup's Greatest Defenders
• FA Cup LIVE on ESPN

Crystal Palace 4-3 Liverpool and Manchester United 3-3 Oldham (1990)

Arguably the greatest day in FA Cup history, April 8, 1990, saw two titanic battles unfold. Firstly, Palace, who had been thrashed 9-0 by Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool in their league fixture, knocked out the holders in a semi-final at Villa Park.

Trailing 1-0 at half-time after an Ian Rush opener, it looked like Palace - who were already without the injured Ian Wright - would capitulate, but Steve Coppell's men came out after the break with fresh resolve and Mark Bright equalised with a powerful shot before Gary O'Reilly sent them into a 2-1 lead after a goalmouth scramble. It didn't last long though, as Steve McMahon soon made it 2-2 from 20 yards and, just one minute later, John Pemberton tugged down Steve Staunton as he charged into the box and John Barnes calmly netted the penalty to put Liverpool ahead again.

As the game edged closer to the final whistle, Liverpool failed to clear a corner and Andy Gray popped up to nod home an equaliser with seconds left, sending the tie into extra-time and the Palace fans into raptures. Nobody considered the possibility that the Eagles could pull off a shock but, after a period in which the exhausted players held their own against more experienced opposition, another corner arrived in the box and Alan Pardew rose above Ronnie Whelan to head home the winner with ten minutes to go.

All hell broke loose after the final whistle, according to Palace midfielder John Salako, but there was more to come as Second Division side held Manchester United to a thrilling 3-3 draw.

The Latics were used to playing on an artificial pitch, but arrived at Maine Road to face United in good spirits. A close range tap-in from Earl Barrett - after the ball had bounced off Jim Leighton's chest - gave them belief after only five minutes had passed, although Bryan Robson levelled the scores before half-time.

With less than 20 minutes remaining, Neil Webb put United in a great position after a fortunate header flew in, but Oldham's fighting spirit held firm and Ian Marshall's volley saw them pull the score back to 2-2. Extra-time followed and, once again, it was United who took the advantage as Danny Wallace sprung the offside trap to slot home after Brian McClair's through ball. However, Oldham were not finished and substitute Roger Palmer forced a replay after great work from Marshall down the left flank.

The Latics would go on to lose the replay 2-1 and United would be in for another 3-3 cracker against Crystal Palace in the final before going on to claim the title in another replay win, but April 8 1990 remains the greatest day for entertainment in FA Cup history.

Tottenham 3-4 Manchester City (2004)

Having gone 3-0 down by half-time, thanks to goals from Ledley King, Robbie Keane and Christian Ziege, City's chances of a comeback were further reduced by Joey Barton's sending off for dissent during the break. However, the ten-men needed just three minutes to get back into the game through Sylvain Distin's header and talk of a revival was well and truly underway when Paul Bosvelt's shot took a huge deflection off Anthony Gardner with half an hour to go.

Shocked by City's resolve, Spurs offered little and the game was tied when Shaun Wright-Phillips latched onto a hopeful ball forward to level the scores. Then, seconds from time, Jon Macken's header looped over Kasey Keller to complete a dramatic turnaround and set up a fifth round clash with Manchester United.

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal (1999)

A game that will always be remembered for the bare-chested celebration of a certain Mr Ryan Giggs, the Premier League's top two teams played out a thrilling encounter at Villa Park that kept United on course for a treble they would eventually achieve. David Beckham's unstoppable swerving shot flew past David Seaman early on, before the Gunners hauled themselves back into the game after half-time through Dennis Bergkamp's deflected shot.

Roy Keane was then sent off for a foul on Marc Overmars, but it was Bergkamp who would prove to be the villain as he missed a last-minute penalty to send the game into extra-time. Substitute Ryan Giggs then took over, as his mesmerising run took him past four defenders before he smashed the ball past Seaman at the near post and created one of the most iconic images of '90s football.

Chesterfield 3-3 Middlesbrough (1997)

One of the most incredible runs in FA Cup history saw Division Two side Chesterfield nearly make it to the final and launch the career of a young Kevin Davies. Having already beaten Bolton, Nottingham Forest and Wrexham, they went 2-0 up against Bryan Robson's Middlesbrough through Andy Morris and a Sean Dyche penalty after Vladimir Kinder was sent off for a second yellow card. However, their lead lasted just four minutes as Fabrizio Ravanelli and Craig Hignett hit back.

But controversy had occurred before the equaliser: with Chesterfield leading 2-1, Jonathan Howard's shot clearly crossed the line after crashing off the underside of the bar - but nothing was given. As extra-time arrived, the unlikely source of Gianluca Festa put Boro ahead for the first time, but Jamie Hewitt - the only Chesterfield- born player in the underdogs' line-up - saved the game with 65 seconds left to force a replay. A week later, Boro brought the fairytale to an end with a 3-0 win.

Burnley 3-3 Blackburn (1960)

An East Lancashire derby of the most intense kind, it was the second time in a week that the two sides had played each other, with Burnley winning 1-0 in the league tie a few days earlier. The game saw six second-half goals as Burnley raced into a 3-0 lead with strikes from Brian Pilkington, Roy Pointer and John Connelly.

However, a controversial penalty for handball - as a wayward shot struck Alex Elder's boot and rebounded onto his arm - helped the Clarets turn the tide and, four minutes after Bryan Douglas' spot-kick, Peter Dobing reduced the deficit further. Pushing for an equaliser, it eventually came with just four minutes left as Mick McGrath latched onto a rebound to squeeze the ball home and force a replay that Blackburn would go on to win 2-0.

Portsmouth 2-4 Newcastle (1952)

Newcastle's striking hero Jackie Milburn made the difference in a game between two otherwise evenly matched sides. The Magpies were looking to secure their second consecutive FA Cup triumph and Milburn's stunning hat-trick against Pompey, who were leading the league at the time, made headlines with possibly his finest performance in a black and white shirt. Belgian winger Marcel Gaillard put Pompey ahead after just four minutes, but Milburn's chest-down and cool strike levelled the scores before half-time.

The one-man assault continued as he put Newcastle ahead with a crashing shot off the underside of the bar, but Pompey levelled through Duggie Reid, before Milburn sealed his hat-trick with the clock ticking down after a fine dribble from the halfway line. With Portsmouth pushing forward, Milburn then turned provider to give George Robledo an easy finish and cement his place in Toon history.

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