The FA Cup’s Biggest 3rd Round Upsets

The FA Cup’s Biggest 3rd Round Upsets

The draw for the 3rd round of the FA Cup remains one of the most highly-anticipated events in the English football calendar, and with teams like AFC Fylde and Woking FC in the hat for the 2018 edition, the prospect of one the competition’s trademark giant-killings taking place in early January is a tantalising one.

Though the influx of money into football in recent decades means it has become a lot more difficult for clubs from lower leagues to advance in the competition, that hasn’t stopped them from punching above their weight on occasion and dumping out teams chock-full of international superstars.

Take a look at what we at SportPesa UK reckon are some of the biggest FA Cup 3rd round upsets ever:



5th Tier Hereford’s victory over First Division Newcastle in the early 70s is still held up as the gold-standard of cup upsets, and arguably ushered in the birth of the modern day giant-killing.

In front of a crowd of less than 15,000 at Edgar Street, the Southern League Club fell behind with just 8 minutes to go as Malcolm MacDonald headed home Viv Busby’s cross. But just three minutes later, the Bulls were level thanks to what has become one of the most famous goals in FA Cup history. On an extremely bobbly playing surface, part-time carpenter Ronnie Radford managed to latch onto the ball and unleash a ferocious strike that arrowed into the top corner of Willie McFaul’s goal. Extra-time followed, with substitute Ricky George, brought on after Newcastle’s opener in attempt to find a way back into the match, scoring the winner as he found the far corner with a low shot.

Both goals were met by mass pitch-invasions, which have been replayed in all-manner of FA Cup coverage over the years.


Before Wayne Shaw’s unsavoury pie-gate stunt in Sutton United’s FA Cup tie with Arsenal earlier this year, the club was known for an altogether more pleasant FA Cup story.

In 1989, Sutton were participating in the Conference, while Coventry were a staple of the First Division and had lifted the cup themselves only two years earlier. But the crowd of 8,000 packed into Gander Green Lane would have been forgiven for thinking the two teams played at a similar level, as the home side put in an assured display again their illustrious opposition.

The U’s took the lead just before-half time as captain Terry Rains poked home after a corner, but they were pegged-back only 7 minutes into the second-half courtesy of David Phillips’ emphatic finish. Shortly afterwards, though, bricklayer and midfielder Matthew Hanlan volleyed in to restore his side’s lead, before they saw out the final 30 minutes and booked their place in the 4th round.


Now, it might be hard for many of you to imagine a time before Arsene Wenger was Arsenal manager, but 25 years ago the role belonged to a man called George Graham. In the 3rd round that year, he took the Gunners to North Wales to face a Wrexham side who at the time were playing in the Fourth Division. Come full-time, Graham would describe the result as his “lowest moment in football.”

The 13,343 at the Racecourse Ground that night saw the away side start well, and they took the lead at the end of the first-half as Alan Smith slid home following Paul Merson’s surging run and cross. In the second-half, Wrexham looked to stifle Arsenal and grew into the game, piling on the pressure as the match entered the final 10 minutes. With 82’ on the clock, captain Mickey Thomas lined up a 25-yard free-kick which flew beyond the outstretched arm of David Seaman and into the top corner. And just 2 minutes later, the home side scored the winner as striker Steve Watkin poked the ball into the next following a scramble in the area.

When the final whistle was blown, home fans invaded the pitch as the club secured the greatest result in its history.


Go back 15 or 20 years and this clash would be have been contested by two of the country’s best teams and biggest rivals, both challenging for honours and competing at the top of the Premier League table. In 2010, however, Alex Ferguson’s United were reigning English champions, while Leeds’ freefall following administration saw them sitting two tiers below in League One.

Despite being separated by 42 league places, Jermaine Beckford gave the away side the lead after 19 minutes, slotting the ball past Tomasz Kuszczak after escaping Wes Brown. A strike-force of Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Danny Welbeck had over an hour to find a way past Leeds’ ‘keeper Kasper Ankergren, but they couldn’t manage it, and fell at the FA Cup’s first hurdle.

Ultimately, Leeds were knocked out by Spurs in the next round, but won promotion to the Championship at the end of the season, while United ceded their Premier League crown to Chelsea.


It may seem harsh to have a team feature as losers twice on this list, but we think it’s most definitely merited.

Alan Pardew’s reign as Newcastle United manager was a turbulent one, but this FA Cup defeat against League Two Stevenage must rank as that era’s lowest ebb. Featuring the likes of Tim Krul, Joey Barton and Fabrizio Coloccini, the Magpies were simply outplayed by their opponents at Broadhall Way, as Graham Westley’s side scored two early second-half goals through Stacy Long and Michael Bostwick to ease into a comfortable lead. Barton scored in injury time to reduce the deficit and set up a nervy finish, but the hosts scored again as Peter Winn slotted home to send their crowd into a frenzy.

Stevenage were knocked out in the next round by Reading, while Newcastle ended the season with a 12th-place finish on their return to the Premier League

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