The “Magic of the FA Cup” rears its beautiful head every year, when clubs from the lower levels of English soccer challenge the giants of the Premier League in the world’s oldest club competition.
Upsets happen often, but only rarely does an underdog put a string of surprises together to enter FA Cup lore, like Lincoln City and Sutton Town are doing in 2017. The following 10 teams, though, fully earned Cinderella status with their legendary odds-defying runs.
Lincoln City, 2017
The wonderfully named Red Imps became the first non-league side - meaning they play in the fifth tier of English soccer or lower - since 1914 to reach the FA Cup quarterfinals with their 1-0 victory at Burnley on Saturday.
Before knocking out their first Premier League opponent, Lincoln eliminated Guiseley, Altrincham, third-tier Oldham and Championship sides Ipswich Town and Brighton in the 3rd and 4th Rounds, respectively. The best part: their miraculous run isn't over!
Bradford City, 2015
Third-division Bradford went through Halifax Town, Dartford and blew out Championship side Millwall to set up a 4th Round match against mighty Chelsea. The eventual Premier League champs ran out to a 2-0 lead at Stamford Bridge and everything seemed to go according to script. But then Bradford roared back with four unanswered goals to seal one of the greatest FA “cupsets” in recent years.
Showing no signs of a hangover, Bradford then blanked Sunderland in the 5th Round and forced a replay against Reading before bowing out in the quarterfinals.
Sheffield United, 2014
After wins against Colchester United and Cambridge United in the first two rounds, the third-division Blades had to face higher-tier opposition the rest of the way.
Sheffield first beat Premier League clubs Aston Villa and Fulham (in extra time of a replay), then took care of business against Nottingham Forest and Charlton Athletic of the Championship. United then took the lead twice against Hull at Wembley, only to fall 5-3 in a doozy of a semifinal.
The Latics only had to beat one fellow Premier League side to get to their first ever FA Cup final – an impressive 3-0 win at Everton in the quarterfinals – but awaiting them at Wembley were Manchester City, and nobody expected Wigan to beat the reigning league champions.
But Roberto Martinez’s men brought City’s collection of superstars to their knees with an impeccable performance, capped by Ben Watson’s stoppage-time winner. Three days later in the Premier League, Wigan lost 4-1 at Arsenal to become the first FA Cup winners to be relegated in the same season.
Luton Town, 2013
Luton Town are just one of three non-league sides — meaning they play in the fifth tier of English soccer or lower — in the last 30 years to reach the 5th Round of the FA Cup.
Luton beat Cambridge United in the 4th Qualifying Round, then Nuneaton, Dorchester and Championship side Wolverhampton to reach the 4th Round Proper. The Hatters then sensationally went on the road to win at Norwich, a mid-table Premier League side, before running into a wall against Millwall in the 5th, losing 3-0 at home.
Chesterfield became only the fourth third-tier club since 1960 to reach the FA Cup semifinals, beating Bury, Scarborough, Bristol City, Bolton, Nottingham Forest and Wrexham along the way. The minnows then forced a replay against Premier League side Middlesbrough with a 119th-minute equalizer in extra time, before losing 3-0 in the semifinal replay.
West Ham, 1980
Relegated from the First Division two years earlier, West Ham became the third second-tier side in eight years to take home the cup — and the last one to this day.
The Hammers had already defied expectations by beating top-tier Aston Villa, West Brom and Everton after extra time to reach the final, but they were huge underdogs against cup holders Arsenal. Didn't matter. West Ham only needed a Trevor Brooking goal for a 1-0 triumph.
The Saints finished sixth in Division Two during the 1975-76 season, but they went on a brilliant FA Cup run for their first and to this day only major trophy in the club’s 131-year history.
Southampton first beat Aston Villa on the road in a replay, then cut down Hull, West Brom, Bradford City and Crystal Palace to book their ticket to Wembley. There they came up against Man United, who would finish 3rd in the top flight, and won a 1-0 thriller on a late goal from Bobby Stokes.
Second-division Fulham had to go through one of the most grueling FA Cup campaigns ever to reach their first (and last) domestic cup final. Fulham needed two replays each against Hull and Nottingham Forest just to get to the 4th Round, then beat three straight First Division sides to reach the final — Everton and Carlisle on the road, then Birmingham City in another replay, which was decided by a last-minute winner in extra time.
West Ham denied Fulham and an aging Bobby Moore one of the best storybook endings of all time, however, winning the final 2-0.
Sunderland needed replays to get past Notts County, Reading and Manchester City in the 3rd, 4th and 5th Rounds, respectively, then blanked Luton Town to reach the semifinals. There the Black Cats stunned Arsenal two years after the Gunners had won the Double, setting up a final against holders Leeds United.
Leeds were at the peak of their powers in the early 70s, but Sunderland still found a way to win 1-0 in one of the biggest FA Cup final upsets ever, becoming the first second-division club to hoist the cup since West Brom in 1931.