The Rundown

Did that just happen? The 10 sporting finales which simply defied belief

The Rundown

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Wigan Athletic's late goal against Manchester City to win the FA Cup final was incredible and breath-taking... yet it wasn't even the most dramatic finish to a match of the weekend.

That honour goes to the final moments of Watford's match against Leicester City in the Championship play-off semi-final second leg. A shocking dive gave Leicester a penalty to win the game more than six minutes into injury time (only four had been officially added by the referee).

But former Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia made sure justice was done by pulling off an amazing double save, then releasing his men upfield for Troy Deeney to score a winner as incredible and unexpected as it is possible to imagine.

That's the beauty of sport: sometimes, things happen that even a soap opera script writer would dismiss as being too far-fetched. Here's some of our favourites from over the years.

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Football: That Michael Thomas goal

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"It's up for grabs now," hollered a disbelieving ITV commentator Brian Moore as Michael Thomas careered through the Liverpool defence in injury time of the final game of the season. Within seconds, the midfielder had bundled the ball over a bamboozled Bruce Grobbelaar and Arsenal had wrenched the 1988-89 title from the home side's grasp.

Liverpool required only a draw against Arsenal in a game that captured the imagination of a nation. Before the advent of satellite television, we had moments like this to cherish. On a Friday night when live football remained a rare spectacle on UK television, millions watched as Liverpool were deposed as the English game's ruling party.

Arsenal required a two-goal win. They got it in the most dramatic of circumstances. Alan Smith supplied the first seven minutes after half time before Thomas applied the drama with his goal and roly-poly celebration deep into injury time. "Miracle Men" blurted out a wardrobe-sized headline in the Mirror. Arsenal's 18-year wait to win the league had ended.

Horse Racing: Devon Loch loses the 1956 Grand National

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Devon Loch, owned by the Queen Mother, collapsed unaccountably while cruising towards the finish line in the Grand National at Aintree.

The horse jumped while in full flow, slipped on landing and refused to run another step, despite the finish line being just yards away. Jockey Dick Francis tried to cajole the horse and get him going again but the horse refused and never finished the race.

The race was instead won by E.S.B. whose jockey Dave Dick said afterwards: "Devon Loch had me stone cold. I was a terribly lucky winner."

Rugby: Leicester beat Cardiff Blues in a penalty shoot-out

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Penalty shoot-outs in football are one thing, since every professional footballer knows how to kick a ball. But the decision to introduce penalty shoot-outs into Heineken Cup rugby appeared to have slipped through the net due to the relative rarity of draws in top-level rugby.

That all came to an end in spectacularly embarrassing fashion in May 2009 when Leicester drew 26-26 with Cardiff Blues after extra-time in their Heineken Cup semi-final.

That brought the spectre of a shoot-out, with each player expected to land a place kick from the 22m line in front of the posts. The first few kicks passed without incident until Johnny Murphy pulled Leicester's fourth kick to the left, but Tom James then missed for Cardiff to the right.

Eventually, Welsh star Martyn Williams missed the eighth kick for the Blues to allow Leicester's Jordan Crane (a decent footballer as a youngster) to pop the ball through the posts and put the Tigers into European rugby's showcase final.

Sadly, Crane's successful kick also robbed expectant neutrals of the chance to see ungainly props attempting place kicks. You can't have it all.

Football: Jimmy Glass keeps Carlisle in the football league

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Carlisle looked to be losing their football league status as their must-win match against Plymouth Argyle on the last day of the season ticked into injury time with the scores locked level at 1-1.

One man refused to give up, however, and when Carlisle won a corner the club's emergency-loan goalkeeper Jimmy Glass charged up the pitch in desperation.

Incredibly, after a classic lower-league goalmouth scramble, the journeyman found himself in the perfect spot to bang home a winner from five yards out, keeping the club's 71-year unbroken run in the football league intact and sending Scarborough down instead.

The goal remains one of the most memorable last-gasp escape acts in sport and sparked an enormous and instantaneous pitch invasion.

Glass never played another match for Carlisle, and as his football career fizzled out he ended up retiring at the age of 27 to become an IT salesman. He now runs a taxi firm in Dorset.

But he'll always have that one golden moment, and he'll never have to pay for a drink in Cumbria as long as he lives.

Golf: Larry Mize breaks Greg Norman's heart at Augusta

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Greg Norman had led all four 1986 Majors going into the final round and, one-by-one, had seen all except The Open at Turnberry slip away. The worst had been that year's final Major, the US PGA Championship, when Bob Tway holed a bunker shot at the last to win by a shot.

Norman looked certain to redress the balance at the very next Major in April of 1987 in the Masters at Augusta. After tying with Seve Ballesteros and local boy Larry Mize after 72 holes, he saw off Seve on the first play-off hole and looked set to collect the Green Jacket on the next as Mize missed the 11th green by 20 yards and had a near-impossible chip down the slope.

Mize had other ideas. His wildly over-hit chip was rolling fast across the green and heading for the water beyond when it smacked into the pin and dropped for an outrageous birdie. Norman had lost his second consecutive Major to a shot holed from off the green.

Football: United snatch European glory from jaws of defeat

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For 90 minutes, this was a stultifying anti-climax in which Bayern scored early and squeezed the life out of United. Mario Basler unsighted Peter Schmeichel with a low free-kick in the sixth minute and Bayern were on their way. Mehmet Scholl hit the post when he should have scored but, such was the Germans' dominance, it surely wouldn't matter.

In a fateful moment of grandstanding, Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld took off Lothar Matthaus four minutes from the end, while other players made celebratory gestures to the fans. Then it all changed in stoppage time. A David Beckham corner was poorly cleared and fell to Ryan Giggs, who completely mis-hit his shot but sent the ball into the path of Teddy Sheringham who swept the ball into the bottom corner.

As a broken Bayern side tried to regroup, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer burst forward and won a corner. Beckham's delivery found the head of Sheringham whose flick-on was redirected into the top-right corner by Solskjaer's outstretched boot. United had their treble, Samuel Kuffour beat the turf with his fist, and UEFA president Lennart Johansson emerged from a lift wondering why the trophy he was about to present had United's ribbons on it. As soon-to-be-Sir Alex Ferguson said: football, bloody hell.

Boxing: Froch goes back to England with his title

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Carl Froch has never taken the easy route to glory so when it came to defending a world title for the first time, he went to America to take on former undisputed middleweight champion Jermain 'Bad Intentions' Taylor instead of fighting some bum of the month.

Few people gave the Cobra much of a chance and the predictions seemed to be spot on as he went into the final round way behind in the scorecards.

However, Froch came up with the round from the ages to snatch the fight. He chased Taylor all around the ring and then with 44 seconds left he finally dropped Taylor to the canvas. However, Taylor managed to get up and only needed to hang on for 30 more seconds but Froch came forward with such a hurricane of punches the referee was forced to stop the fight with just 16 seconds left.

Showtime's Gus Johnson helped welcome Froch to an American audience with a truly brilliant call of the fight which ended with the lines: "I'm going back to England mom – and I'm keeping my title"

Swimming: Michael Phelps wins Olympic gold by 0.01 seconds

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Michael Phelps won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics and the most dramatic was undoubtedly the seventh when he defeated Serbia's Milorad Cavic by the narrowest of margins to win the 100m butterfly.

Cavic seemed to have the beating of Phelps going into the final metres of the race and his head was in front of Phelps as he reached for the wall (Cavic is on the right in the picture above).

Some have suggested that Cavic even touched the wall first but Phelps got there with more initial force which triggered his finishing time quicker.

Either way, it led to one of the most iconic moments in Olympic history.

Formula One: Lewis Hamilton becomes world champion and Timo Glock's best friend.

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Lewis Hamilton became the youngest man to win the Formula One drivers' World Championship in a sensational finish at Interlagos, Brazil in 2008.

The 23-year-old Englishman, needing a top-five finish to be champion, seized fifth place for McLaren Mercedes after losing it on the final lap of a tense, dramatic and rain-hit Brazilian Grand Prix won by his title rival and local hero Felipe Massa of Ferrari.

As Massa triumphed and then celebrated being world champion, briefly, Hamilton caught and passed German Timo Glock of Toyota who opted to stay on dry-weather tyres as light rain fell to turn his day from despair to joy after earlier appearing to have controlled his own race.

Cricket: England beat Australia by just two runs

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England had gone 18 years without winning the Ashes, and despite a talented side, looked like falling to the all-conquering Australians once again in 2005.

Still, having lost the first Test 1-0, England went to bed after day three of the second Test at Edgbaston in total command, with victory surely a formality.

Australia needed another 107 runs, but had only two wickets in hand. England started slowly, Shane Warne confidently, until with 42 to his name he trod on his own stumps.

Captain Michael Vaughan shuffled his bowlers with increasing desperation as Australia, via Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz, whittled down the target of 50 runs required, then 40, then 30, then 20.

Kasprowicz, a proper tail-ender, was dropped at third man by Simon Jones. Defeat appeared to have been snatched from the jaws of victory once more.

And then, Steve Harmison beat Kasprowicz with a short ball, and he could only fend it to the wicketkeeper.

England won by two runs, famously went on to win the series, and nobody seemed to mind when replays showed that technically, Kasper shouldn’t have been given out...

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