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Premier League title race: Ten classic battles for the English title

Liverpool trailed Manchester City by 14 points on 15 January, but the Reds have dropped only two points since and find themselves only one point behind Pep Guardiola’s side with four matches left to play.

With the race for the Premier League crown set to go right down to the wire, BBC Sport looks back at 10 of the most nail-biting title races in recent memory.

And at the bottom of this page, you can rank the title races as you see it.

Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal – 1988-89

Arsenal's Michael Thomas scoring the title clinching goal in 1989
Michael Thomas went on to play for Liverpool two and a half years after denying them the title

One of the most thrilling conclusions to an English top-flight season took place at Anfield three years before the foundation of the Premier League.

Liverpool headed into the final game of the 1988-89 campaign three points clear of opponents and closest challengers Arsenal, and with a marginally superior goal difference.

The Gunners took a 1-0 lead through Alan Smith early in the second half but still needed one more goal to overhaul the Reds on goals scored.

Reigning champions Liverpool appeared to be holding on for an 18th league crown until, with the game in injury time, Michael Thomas’ cool finish past Bruce Grobbelaar silenced Anfield and handed Arsenal the title in the most dramatic of fashions.

West Ham 1-1 Manchester United/Liverpool 2-1 Blackburn – 1994-95

Blackburn players with Premiership trophy
Blackburn were the second of the seven different teams to have won the Premier League

Powered by the goals of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, Kenny Dalglish’s Blackburn Rovers had topped the table since February but Manchester United – who had claimed the first two Premier League titles under Sir Alex Ferguson – had closed to within two points of the Lancashire club going into the final day of the season.

All was going to plan for Rovers when Shearer’s 34th league goal of the campaign was swiftly followed by Michael Hughes’ opener for West Ham against United.

Brian McClair restored parity for the Red Devils before John Barnes’ equaliser at Anfield set up a nervous finale.

Rovers fans’ hearts were in their mouths when Jamie Redknapp fired Liverpool in front in stoppage time but despite intense pressure from Ferguson’s team at Upton park, a United winner never materialised and Blackburn claimed their first top-flight title in 81 years.

Middlesbrough 0-3 Manchester United/Newcastle 1-1 Tottenham – 1995-96

Manchester United celebrate
Manchester United won their third title in the first four Premier League seasons

Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United ‘Entertainers’ famously led the Premiership by 12 points in February 1996 but United – galvanised by the return after a nine-month suspension of Eric Cantona – slowly ate away at the Magpies’ lead, beating them 1-0 at St James’ Park at the beginning of March before eventually leapfrogging Keegan’s side at the top of the table.

They held a two-point cushion over Newcastle when they travelled to Middlesbrough on the final day, while the Magpies needed to beat Tottenham at home to keep their title hopes alive.

However, those hopes were virtually extinguished when David May gave the Red Devils an early lead at the Riverside Stadium, with Andy Cole and Ryan Giggs putting the seal on a comfortable win in the second half – as Newcastle’s campaign ended in a disappointing 1-1 draw with Spurs.

Manchester United 2-1 Tottenham/Arsenal 1-0 Aston Villa – 1998-99

Man Utd celebrate 1999 Premier League title
The Premier League was one part of United’s 1999 Treble

Arsenal and Manchester United went into the final two games of the season on the same number of points, but the Gunners’ 1-0 defeat by Leeds, coupled with the Red Devils’ goalless draw at struggling Blackburn, gave the latter a one-point advantage on the final day of the season.

Ferguson’s team played host to Tottenham, while Arsenal welcomed Aston Villa to Highbury.

Spurs appeared to be doing their north London rivals a favour when Les Ferdinand gave them an unlikely first-half lead, but goals from David Beckham and Andy Cole either side of half-time rendered the Gunners’ 1-0 win over Villa meaningless and kick-started United’s march towards an unprecedented Treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.

Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal – 2001-02

Sylvain Wiltord
Arsenal sealed the title on the penultimate day but ended up 10 points clear of third-placed United

United had won three league titles on the trot since Arsene Wenger had ended Arsenal’s seven-year wait for the top-flight crown four years previously.

But the Red Devils knew nothing but victory would do to stop the Gunners – who arrived at Old Trafford for their penultimate game on an 11-match winning run – from finishing as Premier League champions for the second time in five seasons.

The visitors dominated from the outset and eventually got their noses in front through Sylvain Wiltord, who was quickest to react after Freddie Ljungberg’s goal-bound effort was parried into the striker’s path by United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, sparking jubilant scenes among the Gunners’ travelling supporters.

Wigan 0-2 Manchester United/Chelsea 1-1 Bolton – 2007-08

Ronaldo
This was the second of three title wins in a row for Manchester United

Only goal difference separated Manchester United from Avram Grant’s Chelsea before the 2007-08 season’s final weekend, but Ferguson’s side made light work of Wigan to secure a 17th league title.

Cristiano Ronaldo broke the deadlock from the penalty spot in the first half before Ryan Giggs clinched United’s latest Premier League triumph – the Welshman’s 10th – with a composed finish from a Wayne Rooney pass.

The Red Devils went on to pip the Blues to Champions League glory 10 days later, winning on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Moscow.

Chelsea 8-0 Wigan/Manchester United 4-0 Stoke – 2009-10

Chelsea
Chelsea ended Manchester United’s run of three consecutive titles

After finishing third behind United and Liverpool the previous year, Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea needed to win to end the Red Devils’ three-season reign as champions – and they did so in emphatic fashion against a hapless Wigan at Stamford Bridge.

United cruised to victory over Stoke at Old Trafford, but there was never any doubt the Blues would reclaim the crown they had last won in 2006 once Nicolas Anelka had given them a sixth-minute lead.

A Didier Drogba hat-trick and further goals from Anelka, Frank Lampard, Salomon Kalou and Ashley Cole provided a fitting finale to an outstanding campaign for Ancelotti and his players.

Manchester City 3-2 Queens Park Rangers/Sunderland 0-1 Manchester United – 2011-12

Manchester City – and Sergio Aguero in particular – are responsible for arguably the Premier League’s most iconic moment in May 2012.

Leaders City were level on points with neighbours United going into the final weekend, but the former’s vastly superior goal difference meant a home win over QPR would guarantee a first Premier League title.

Mancini’s men appeared to be suffering an astonishing collapse as Mark Hughes’ QPR clung on to a slender 2-1 advantage as the game entered stoppage time, while United led through Wayne Rooney’s 20th-minute goal at the Stadium of Light.

But Edin Dzeko made it 2-2 at Etihad Stadium before Aguero scored with virtually the last kick of the game to send the blue half of Manchester into ecstasy and end City’s 44-year wait for a top-flight title.

Crystal Palace 3-3 Liverpool/Manchester City 4-0 Aston Villa – 2013-14

Manchester City celebrate
Manchester City celebrated their second title in three years

Despite losing 2-0 to Chelsea at Anfield the previous week – thanks in part to Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip – all was not lost for Liverpool as they travelled to Selhurst Park in their second-last game of the 2013-14 season.

Brendan Rodgers’ side, who trailed Manchester City on goal difference, raced into a 3-0 lead and looked set to keep the pressure on Manuel Pellegrini’s side with 11 minutes of the second half remaining.

However, a remarkable collapse allowed Palace to claim an unlikely point and leave talismanic Reds striker Luis Suarez in tears at the final whistle.

A 4-0 win over Aston Villa two days later lifted City three points clear of the Reds, before Pellegrini’s charges clinched the title with a 2-0 triumph at home to West Ham on the final day.

Brighton 1-4 Manchester City/Liverpool 2-0 Wolves – 2018-19

Pep Guardiola, Manchester City
Pep Guardiola is only the third manager after Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho to win back-to-back Premier League titles

In one of the most remarkable title races of the Premier League era, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool sat on 95 and 94 points respectively going into the 2018-19 finale, which saw City travel to Brighton and the Reds play host to Wolves.

A Glenn Murray opener set nerves jangling among the away fans at the Amex Stadium and raised hopes at Anfield that Liverpool might yet pip City for a first league crown in 29 years.

A Sadio Mane double earned Klopp’s team a 2-0 win, but City recovered from their slow start to cruise to a comfortable 4-1 victory on the south coast to secure the title.

The top English title races

Rank these English title races from first to 10th

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