While the third and fourth rounds are often about the minnows, this stage of the FA Cup really does signal the business end of the world’s oldest domestic knockout cup competition and has thrown-up some thrilling fixtures down the years.
That said, the FA Cup fifth round has seen its fair share of smaller participants mixing it with the larger clubs, not to mention a few heavyweight contests amongst the teams from the top flight, who, by now, have Wembley clearly in their sights.
So here’s a look at some of the most gripping FA Cup fifth round encounters in recent times; some for the fact that they were huge shocks, others for the sheer breathtaking drama that occurred as teams closed in on one of the biggest prizes in the game.
Colchester United 3-2 Leeds United, 1971
Having been runners-up in the previous season’s FA Cup Leeds were looking to go one better this time around, whereas Colchester had been dubbed “Grandad’s Army” going into the tie due to the high average age of the side.
Nobody gave Colchester a chance against a side which contained no fewer than tn internationals, but the Us took their top-flight opponents by storm scoring two goals before half-time through Ray Crawford.
The game looked to be done and dusted early in the second half when Colchester made it 3-0, but if anything this spurred Leeds into life and they made it a nervy last few minutes for the Layer Road faithful when they clawed it back to 3-2 with 12 minutes left, thanks to goals from Norman Hunter and Johnny Giles.
Newcastle United 2-3 Manchester United, 1990
Having disposed of Nottingham Forest and Hereford United in the previous two rounds Manchester United travelled North East into a bear pit of an atmosphere to face a Newcastle side who were looking for a quick return to the top flight, having been relegated the year before.
Mark Robins, hero of the third round, had put United ahead on 20 minutes before Mark McGhee converted a penalty to pull the Magpies level with United getting their noses in front again in the second half thanks to some fine work down the right from Robins, who set-up Danny Wallace for a devastating strike past
But as the away fans were still celebrating, a hotly disputed goal from McGhee after Mick Quinn appeared to trip United keeper Jim Leighton made it 2-2, and as a replay loomed United began to show the fighting spirit that was to epitomise the club during the Ferguson years and, after a jinking run from Wallace, Brian McClair slid the ball home from close range for his first goal in 17 games to clinch a place in the next round.
Everton 4-4 Liverpool, 1991
There have been many great Merseyside derbies down the years but this Fifth Round replay in February 1991 has to go down as one of the best ever just two years after the pair had served-up a five goal thriller in the final at Wembley.
Incredibly this meeting proved to be even more dramatic as, on four separate occasions, the Reds surrendered the lead and the Blues came from behind to cancel out goals from Peter Beardsley, Ian Rush and John Barnes in a breathtaking encounter.
But one prominent name would be absent from the second replay just days later when the two sides met again as the epic draw at Goodison Park was to be Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish’s last game in charge of the club as he resigned two days after the 4-4 thriller with the club three points clear at the top of the league.
Southampton 2-6 Tottenham, 1995
Goals from Neil Shipperley and Matt Le Tissier looked to have secured the South Coast side’s passage into the sixth round going into half-time, but Spurs had something of an ace up their sleeve in the form of Ronnie Rosenthal, a proven goalscorer who had helped Liverpool to win the league championship several years earlier.
During the break, Gerry Francis sent on Rosenthal in a switch that proved inspired and after just ten minutes of the second half he hit two in two minutes to level the match, sweeping in at the near post and then smashing in a 25-yard strike which beat Bruce Grobbelaar all ends up meaning It would take extra time to separate the two.
Rosenthal completed his hat-trick in the additional 30 minutes as, from 30 yards plus he let fly, giving Grobbelaar no chance before Southampton caved in and conceded a fourth, fifth and sixth thanks to strikes from Sheringham, Nick Barmby and Anderton.
Liverpool 1-2 Barnsley, 2008
This was just one of two dramatic giant-killings for Barnsley in a run which would eventually see them reach the the semi-finals at Wembley and, despite Liverpool boss Rafael Benítez fielding an under strength team, the Champions League finalists were still expected to easily progress in front of 42,000 fans at Anfield.
Things looked to be going to script when Dirk Kuyt gave the the lead, but, against the run of play, Stephen Foster levelled after on-loan goalkeeper Luke Steele made save after save to keep the scoreline respectable.
It was then Brian Howard’s opportunity to write his name into Barnsley folklore, controlling a high ball and beating two defenders before rifling a low shot inside the near post to send the Tykes fans into ecstasy.
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