Grimsby Town wrote their name into FA Cup folklore this week by pulling off a shock 2-1 victory over Premier League opposition Southampton to reach the quarterfinals of the competition for the first time since 1939.
The Mariners scored two penalties either side of half-time and survived a late disallowed equaliser to secure a famous fifth-round win against a team 64 places above them on the league ladder.
The fourth-tier side also entered the FA Cup history books by becoming the first team in 152 years to knock out five teams from higher leagues in the same cup run, having also beaten Plymouth Argyle, Cambridge United, Burton Albion and Luton Town en route to the last eight.
Grimsby’s surprise result against top-flight strugglers Southampton has already entered the pantheon when it comes to the FA Cup’s long list of giant-killings, but how does it compare to 10 of the most astonishing results in the competition’s history?
1. Sutton United 2-1 Coventry City, 1989
One of the most revered upsets in FA Cup history came in early January 1989 as top-flight Coventry, the FA Cup winners from two years previous, were sent out of the competition by Sutton of the Conference (the top division of non-league football) in the third round. Tony Rains and Matthew Hanlan scored the vital goals at Gander Green Lane as Sutton became the first non-league side to beat top-tier opposition in the competition for decades. In fact, the Us remained the most recent team to do so for almost a quarter of a century, until National League side Luton beat Norwich in the fourth round in 2013.
2. Chelsea 2-4 Bradford, 2015
It looked for all the world that a fourth-round formality was on the cards when Premier League heavyweights Chelsea galloped into a two-goal lead at Stamford Bridge against a League One side some 49 places beneath them in the pile. However, the Bantams had other ideas and roared back from the brink to stun the Blues with a four-goal flurry from Jon Stead, Filipe Morais, Andy Halliday and Mark Yeates, seeing them sweep a baffled Jose Mourinho team aside to reach the quarters against all the odds.
3. Crawley Town 3-0 Leeds United, 2021
One of the most recent giant-killings to grace the FA Cup came in 2021, when Crawley of League Two defied the 62-rung gulf between themselves and their Premier League guests to rip Marcelo Bielsa’s idling side apart at Broadfield. As they headed into the fourth round for only the third time in their history, the Reds found themselves in such a commanding position that they were even able to bring on a reality TV show star as a gimmick substitute for the final few minutes of the match.
4. Newport County 2-1 Leicester City, 2019
With 74 places in the EFL separating the two teams, Newport probably feared the worst when they welcomed recent Premier League champions Leicester City to Rodney Parade for a third-round clash in early January. However, trepidation soon turned to elation as an 85th-minute penalty converted by Padraig Amond proved enough to dump the Foxes out of the competition and give the Welsh side their first win over top-flight opposition in the FA Cup third round since 1963-64.
5. Sunderland 1-0 Leeds United, 1973
Sunderland were milling around in the old Division Two when they came up against a strong Leeds side that were dominating the top flight of English football at the time in the final of the 1972-73 FA Cup. Far from being overawed, the Black Cats ground out one of the competition’s greatest shocks with a first-half goal from Ian Porterfield and a brilliant reflex save from goalkeeper Jim Montgomery steering Bob Stokoe’s side to victory at Wembley.
6. Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal, 1992
It looked like disaster had been averted when reigning league champions Arsenal took the lead against Wrexham (who were bottom of the fourth tier at the time) with 10 minutes to go at the Racecourse Ground. The Welsh side needed a miracle and that’s precisely what they got when 37-year-old veteran Mickey Thomas dispatched a superb 25-yard free kick to equalise and forever etch his name into FA Cup history in the process. With the tide suddenly turned, Wrexham pressed hard and forced a late, late winner through Steve Watkin to send the Gunners packing.
7. Lincoln City 1-0 Burnley, 2017
Under the stewardship of the Cowley brothers, Lincoln became the first non-league side to reach the quarterfinals of the FA Cup in over 100 years (since 1914, to be precise) when they eliminated Premier League opponents Burnley in the fifth round. The decisive goal came in the 89th minute when the Imps scored with their only shot on target of the entire game — a header from centre-back Sean Raggett that had to be confirmed via goal-line technology.
8. Hereford 2-1 Newcastle, 1972
Ronnie Radford’s name will forever be synonymous with FA Cup upset thanks to his heroics for Hereford against top-flight Newcastle in 1972. The Southern League side had already earned a brilliant 2-2 draw at St James’ Park to force a replay at Edgar Street. The Magpies went ahead in the 82nd minute through Malcolm McDonald but their lead lasted just three minutes before Radford equalised with what is quite possibly the most famous and oft-replayed goal in the FA Cup’s entire 152-year history — a 40-yard screamer unleashed on a pitch that constituted almost 99% mud. With the tie forced into extra time, Ricky George then notched a precious winner for Hereford in the 103rd minute.
9. Wigan 1-0 Man City, 2013
Another of the great final upsets came at Wembley in 2013 when a single near-post header from Ben Watson was enough to put the cap of Wigan’s incredible cup run, much to Man City’s chagrin. With Roberto Martinez at the helm, Watson’s aerial prowess in the 91st-minute saw the Latics lift their first ever major trophy in 81 years of trying — in the same season they were relegated from the top division.
10. Liverpool 0-1 Wimbledon, 1988
The Culture Club were systematically dismantled by the Crazy Gang as unfashionable Wimbledon concocted a glorious victory over Liverpool at Wembley in the 1988 final. The Reds were the most dominant side in English football in the 1980s but they came unstuck against Bobby Gould’s hard-working, tough-tackling outfit. Dave Beasant became the first goalkeeper to save a penalty in an FA Cup final to deny John Aldridge before a late header from Lawrie Sanchez saw the underdogs emerge on top.