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A turning point in the campaign
ESPN will be showing the clashes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Stoke City when it continues its coverage of this season's FA Cup with three matches from the fifth round. For subscription details please click here
This weekend sees the fortunate 16 teams still left in the FA Cup fight it out in the fifth round of the competition - with the quarter-finals of the competition just one victory away and a tantalising trip to Wembley a single hurdle further beyond that.
The fifth round has proven a particularly crucial tie in previous seasons - with victories propelling clubs onto success, or devastating defeats leading to a real downturn in form in other competitions. We take a look at some of the best (and worst) examples of both eventualities:
2009: Watford 1 Chelsea 3
A huge moment for the Blues, who came into the game in a real rut after the sacking of the unpopular Luiz Felipe Scolari. The league title was a distant dream, and Guus Hiddink had just been brought in to steady the ship over the final phase of the season. It initially looked like it would be a tough job for the Dutchman, who saw his side toil without reward against the Championship side before falling behind to Tamas Priskin's 70th minute strike. It looked like the club were about to hit a new low - before Nicolas Anelka stepped up with a 13-minute hat-trick to revitalise his side and send the Blues into the next round.
Chelsea went on to win the FA Cup - beating Portsmouth in the final to send Hiddink off into the sunset - but performed noticeably better in all their other competitions; with the club comfortably securing third in the league, and only exiting the Champions League in the last minute of their semi-final with Barcelona - arguably the best side around at the time, even if they were lucky to escape the Bridge with victory.
1936: Arsenal 3 Newcastle 3
In a rematch of the 1932 FA Cup final, Arsenal needed home comforts to finally get past Newcastle United and put themselves on the path to eventual glory. They led three times against the Magpies at a jam-packed St James' - before making the costly mistake of sitting back and relying on defence as they ended up drawing - but at home they made no such error, with Cliff Bastin (two penalties) and Pat Beasley getting the decisive goals.
Barnsley and Grimsby would then be dealt with in customarily ruthless fashion as Ted Drake's solitary goal eventually decided the final against Sheffield United.
1995: Everton 5 Norwich 0
What a difference a game makes. Heading into the fifth round contest, both sides had differing concerns. Everton were a mere point clear of relegation in the league ahead of their game against the Canaries - who were comfortably ensconced in mid-table. That counted for little during the cup tie, however, as goals from Anders Limpar, Joe Parkinson, Paul Rideout, Duncan Ferguson and Graham Stuart saw the Toffees romp to an emphatic victory.
Subsequently the fortunes for both sides changed dramatically - Norwich picked up just eight more points over the remainder of the season as they were relegated, while Everton elevated themselves to a 15th place finish (safe by five points) and even went on to win the cup, with Rideout's famous goal denying Manchester United, who had also been edged out in the league by Blackburn Rovers.
1990: Portsmouth 1 Tottenham 2
A big victory for Spurs - who certainly should have beaten Portsmouth but were made to sweat to do so. In the end, after Mark Chamberlain had put the hosts in front, two fine goals from Paul Gascoigne - the first a flying header, the second a fine solo run and shot - helped the London side get the result they needed.
In subsequent weeks their form in the league suffered but they continued inexorably onto Wembley - eventually beating Nottingham Forest in the final (thanks to Des Walker's extra-time own goal) to end a nine-year drought without a trophy.
1998: Crystal Palace 1 Arsenal 2 (replay)
Arsene Wenger's popularity might be falling these days, but this is where he began to build the groundswell of support that still exists for him in places around Emirates Stadium. Arsenal were challenging for the title in Wenger's second season in charge (they finished third in their first), but were struggling to keep up with leaders Manchester United. Three games in barely a week against Crystal Palace changed their fortunes somewhat.
Having drawn with them at Highbury in the fifth round of the FA Cup, they edged out the same opponents in the league to move nine points adrift of United with two games in hand. Then, in the replay against the Eagles, goals from Nicolas Anelka and Dennis Bergkamp got an all-important win for the French manager.
Draws against West Ham (in both the league and cup) followed, but then came a 10-game winning streak in the league that saw them majestically claim the title with two games to spare. They would also go on to beat Newcastle in the FA Cup final, ensuring the Double for Wenger as he gained his first success on English shores.
1978: Ipswich Town 2 Bristol Rovers 2
Barely a kick away from going out of the competition, on the smallest of factors does an FA Cup winner make. Ipswich - struggling to avoid relegation from Division One - ended up tasting cup success at Wembley, but it could all have been so different if Sir Bobby Robson's side had failed to escape a brutal fifth round tie against Bristol Rovers at Eastville.
In freezing conditions that caused many to believe the game would be called off, Ipswich needed Robin Turner to complete his brace with just four minutes left to stay alive in the competition and force a replay at Portman Road. That game would prove much more straightforward - with Mick Mills, Paul Mariner and Clive Woods all proving a class above - as the Tractor Boys went on to knock out Millwall and West Brom on the way to victory over Arsenal in the final.
1973: Manchester City 2 Sunderland 2
Sunderland went into the last 16 match as huge underdogs - after all, they were in the Second Division, while City were there or thereabouts at the top end of Division One under the guidance of Malcolm Allison and with the likes of Colin Bell and Franny Lee leading the line. Maine Road was packed for the game but the Black Cats remained unfazed, with Micky Horswill and Billy Hughes cancelling out Tony Towers' opener with two lethal finishes. A late own goal enabled City to take the game to a replay, however, and most casual observers thought that was that in terms of the chances of an upset.
Sunderland did not agree however - bursting into a 2-0 lead at Roker Park and never letting go, not even after Lee had halved the deficit. Hughes got another to confirm the victory, and in the process get the young team believing they could go on and win the cup. Bookies cut the side's odds from 250-1 to 100-1 in light of the win - and it was to prove a sound bet for all those who took it, as the Black Cats proved too lucky for Luton, Arsenal and Leeds (the latter pair having contested the final a year previously) on the way to a memorable and surprising success.
1988: Newcastle 1 Wimbledon 3
Wimbledon went into the game as underdogs, but came away with a victory that propelled them onto one of the most memorable successes in FA Cup history. Much attention was focused on Vinnie Jones and Paul Gascoigne before the match - with a previous meeting earlier in the season resulting in one of the most iconic images in football - but it was other players who would step up to dominate the game. Wimbledon got off to the right start as Terry Gibson opened the scoring after six minutes, but Rob McDonald grabbed one back on the hour-mark as a packed St James' Park started rocking. The joy would not last, however, as the so-called 'Crazy Gang' struck twice through Marcus Gayle and John Fashanu (with a lovely looping volley five minutes from time) to put his side into the quarter-finals. The rest, as they say, is history as Wimbledon went on to shock Liverpool in the final.
1958: Birmingham City 1 Nottingham Forest 1
Not one but two replays were needed for Forest to finally get past their fellow mid-table First Division side. After the first game at St Andrews finished 1-1, the two teams returned to the City Ground to play out an identical scoreline. Maybe the Blues had grown tired of seeing their opponents, as the third replay (once again, back at St Andrews) resulted in a 5-0 win for a Forest team that was, to all intents and purposes, their equal (maybe that's unfair - a month later the Blues won 7-1 away to the same side in the league).
Whatever the case, the result galvanised Forest - as they went on to knock out fellow First Division sides Bolton and Aston Villa before beating another, Luton, 2-1 in the final.
1955: Newcastle United 2 Nottingham Forest 2
Three years prior, alas, Forest had found the boot on other foot - losing to eventual winners Newcastle United after a second replay was needed to decide matters. The first game at the City Ground finished at 1-1, before the pair played out a 2-2 battle at St James' Park just over a week later. Newcastle then won the right to host the second replay, a crucial advantage that allowed them to scrape through with a 2-1 win.
After those 270 minutes of fraught football everything else seemed simple in comparison - it was just a single replay they needed to beat Huddersfield and York on the way to the final, where Manchester City were downed inside the 90 minutes to confirm victory.
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