10 of the Best FA Cup Semi-Finals of All Time

Paul Gascoigne of Tottenham Hotspur
Paul Gascoigne is responsible for one of the most memorable FA Cup semi-finals of all-time | Simon Bruty/Getty Images

It's FA Cup semi-final time, people!

While the tension and anxiety of a final often mean the pinnacle of the competition persistently underwhelms, the weekend of semi-final action typically delivers everything you want in a couple of games of football.

And while Mikel Arteta's stifling of his master in Arsenal's 2-0 defeat of Manchester City may be a result which defines the Spaniard's era in north London, the game itself was hardly a spectacle and certainly not worthy of being apart of this prestigious list.

Nevertheless, we've seen some classics on semi-final weekend down the years and here are a pick of the bunch.

1. Manchester United 5-3 Fulham (1958)

The tragic events of the Munich air disaster just 44 days prior added further poignancy and admiration towards United's win in this tie.

A patched-up Red Devils outfit side drew their semi-final against Fulham 2-2 at Villa Park and then, four days later at Highbury, somehow summoned the willpower to win the replay 5-3.

In an end-to-end classic, United raced into a 3-0 lead before Johnny Haynes inspired the Cottagers into levelling the scores. Goals from Alex Dawson, however, ensured the Red Devils progressed through to the final.

"In light of what's happened, there can't be a football fan alive who can begrudge United getting to Wembley," Fulham's Haynes admitted post-match.

"It's got to be one of football's most remarkable comebacks,” added United boss Jimmy Murphy, although Bolton denied their neighbours a fairytale finale in the final, as Nat Lofthouse's double secure a 2-0 win for the Trotters.

2. Spurs 3-1 Manchester United (1962)

Spurs' semi against a re-emerging United outfit presented Bill Nicholson's reigning double-winners the perfect chance to prove that they remained the main attraction in the early 1960s - despite losing their league crown to Alf Ramsey's Ipswich.

And they certainly delivered at Hillsborough.

Jimmy Greaves opened the scoring in the opening stages before Cliff Jones nodded in John White’s cross to put the Lilywhites 2-0 up at the break. Although David Herd’s late strike gave United hope, Spurs swiftly eased any doubts...

Described by reporter Alan Hoby as a “ferocious stab of a bayonet – a killer goal", Terry Medwin's header restored Spurs' two-goal advantage and secured a 3-1 victory.

The Lilywhites had answered the critics, reflected by Bill Nic post-match: "I think that we've proved our point."

3. Crystal Palace 4-3 Liverpool (1990)

General view of supporters
Selhurst Park celebrating Alan Pardew's winner | Dan Smith/Getty Images

Sure, it might not have been on the level of the 'Crazy Gang's' upset of Liverpool in the '88 final, but this was a serious turn-up, with the gulf in class between these two sides epitomised by the Reds 9-0 triumph over the Eagles earlier in the season.

Buoyed by the magic of the competition, however, Palace cancelled out Ian Rush's early opener thanks to strikes from Mark Bright and Gary O'Reilly before Liverpool completed a late turnaround of their own to take a 3-2 lead.

But just as it appeared an impressive Eagles side were to be denied in heart-breaking fashion, Andy Gray - no, not him - popped up to score an equaliser two minutes from time to force the game into extra-time.

The Reds were rattled, every throw-in, free-kick or corner gave the great Alan Hansen and company palpitations, and Palace were the ones to grab the winner as Alan Pardew's (yes, him) close-range header sent them to Wembley after an astonishing end to an absolute classic.

4. Oldham 3-3 Manchester United (1990)

Neil Webb of Manchester United and  Andy Holden of Oldham
Manchester United's Neil Webb and Oldham's Andy Holden | Simon Bruty/Getty Images

You'd struggle to find a better day of football than April 8 1990.

Shortly after the giant-killing at Selhurst Park, Manchester United visited Maine Road to take on second division side Oldham and were almost subject to an upset of their own.

Mind you, this was a poor United side lumbering around in the bottom-half of the top-tier. Mark Robins had earlier notoriously saved Sir Alex Ferguson's job with a late winner in the third round against Forest and their FA Cup run that year was ultimately pivotal in the United board keeping the faith with their Scottish coach.

Brian Robson and Neil Webb cancelled out Earl Barrett’s opener but Ian Marshall struck 15 minutes from the end to also send this game into extra time - where Danny Wallace caught Oldham cold just two minutes into extra time to put United ahead once more.

Latics veteran Roger Palmer stepped up with the equaliser seven minutes from time though to end a breathless game all square, but Robins would once again potentially save Fergie's job as he scored the winner in the replay.

5. Spurs 3-1 Arsenal (1991)

Paul Gascoigne of Tottenham Hotspur
The 1991 FA Cup semi final was perhaps Gazza's peak | Simon Bruty/Getty Images

GAZZAMANIA.

The phenomenon who'd gripped a nation the summer prior with an unforgettable World Cup campaign at Italia '90 continued to evolve into a superstar before 'Gazzamania' reached its domestic peak in April 1991.

The first-ever Wembley semi-final was the amphitheatre for one of the competitions most iconic moments, as a half-fit Gascoigne spearheaded underdogs Spurs' 3-1 triumph over bitter north London rivals Arsenal.

The Gunners simply couldn't cope with the mercurial midfielder, who gave his team the lead after just five minutes with that blistering 30-yard free-kick which bent beyond David Seaman.

The genial Geordie continued to dominate the contest and he was the protagonist in the move which saw Gary Lineker poke home a second after a goalmouth melee. Although Alan Smith’s header just before the break gave Arsenal hope, another Lineker goal clinched the win - Spurs’ last to date at the final four stage of the competition.

Gazza's future never looked brighter than on that Wembley day against the Gunners; on the same pitch a month later, however, he would crash and burn.

6. Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Sheffield United (1993)

Alan Cork of Sheffield United and Carlton Palmer of Sheffield Wednesday
Sheffield United vs Sheffield Wednesday - FA Cup | Getty Images/Getty Images

Another fierce rivalry played out in the pressure-cooker of an FA Cup semi-final, Wembley was once again the host for a Steel City derby that will live long in the memory for those of a Wednesday persuasion.

Chris Waddle’s set-piece stunner opened the scoring on almost the same bit of turf as Gazza's free-kick three years prior, with the mercurial midfielder curling home an unstoppable effort after just two minutes to set the Owls on their way to victory.

Sheffield United did equalise through veteran Alan Cork, however, with nothing to separate the two sides after 90 minutes of action.

Wednesday continued to probe throughout the contest as Blades keeper Alan Kelly enjoyed a fine outing between the sticks, but United hearts and resistance were broken deep into added time as Mark Bright nodded home from an inswinging corner.

7. Middlesbrough 3-3 Chesterfield (1997)

Gianluca Festa
Gianluca Festa's strike handed Middlesbrough the lead in extra-time | Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

When third-tier Chesterfield rocked up to Old Trafford with a place in the FA Cup final on the line, they were as big an underdog as there’s ever likely to be.

The Spireites, however, were robbed of a place at Wembley.

When Premier League big spenders Middlesbrough had Vladimir Kinder sent off shortly before half-time Chesterfield took full advantage and raced into a 2-0 lead.

Boro pulled a goal back through former Juventus hitman Fabrizio Ravanelli but in the 69th-minute, the minnows thought they were almost there. Jonathan Howard’s shot hit the underside of the bar before bouncing over the line - but no goal was signalled by referee David Elleray. Frank Lampard 2010-esque.


And just 90 seconds later, it was level after a foul by Sean Dyche - yes, the Sean Dyche, scorer of Chesterfield’s second goal - on Juninho was wrongly adjudged to have been committed just inside the penalty area, which allowed Craig Hignett to score from 12 yards.

The Premier League outfit appeared to have completed the turnaround in extra time when Gianluca Festa scored a third, but there was time for one final twist, as local boy Jamie Hewitt fired home a dramatic 119th-minute equaliser.

An unforgettable moment which would end in vain though, as Boro won the replay 3-0.

8. Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal 1999

Dennis Bergkamp's squandered spot-kick may be one of the biggest 'what ifs?' in English football.

The Dutchman had a chance to send Arsenal through to the final after Phil Neville had brought down Ray Parlour inside the area in stoppage time, but his effort from 12 yards was clawed away by Peter Schmeichel.

Thus, Bergkamp's miss paved way for the most notorious sequence of FA Cup action in the history of the competition...

Patrick Vieira's errant pass found the feet of Ryan Giggs just inside his own half before the Welshman embarked on an imperious run which saw the fleet-footed winger ease past Vieira, outmanoeuvre Lee Dixon and Martin Keown and thunder his effort into the roof of Seaman's net.

The run. The shirt-twirl. The chest hair. Iconic.

9. Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United 2011

Perhaps not a 'classic' as such, but this was a significant moment in not only Manchester City's modern history, but the Premier League's as well.

Yaya Toure's second-half effort after the Ivorian pounced on an uncharacteristic Michael Carrick first phase error was enough to send the Cityzens through to the final, with the victory over their title-winning rivals not necessarily a changing of the guard, but instead a tone-setter for the upcoming decade.

Toure would prove the hero once more in the final as City scraped past Stoke 1-0 to secure their first piece of major silverware since 1976. The midfielder's two strikes set the precedent for four Premier League titles in the 2010s.

Manchester City had arrived.

10. Chelsea 4-2 Tottenham 2017

A classic encounter between the country's top two sides at the time, it was Antonio Conte's Chelsea who proved the be the Lilywhites' kryptonite once more.

Despite Diego Costa and Eden Hazard being absent from the Blues' starting XI and a young Nathan Ake making a rare appearance as part of Conte's back three, Chelsea found themselves 2-1 ahead at the break following a pair of Willian set-pieces either side of an improvised Harry Kane header.

Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli combined against the Blues in spellbinding fashion once more to earn Spurs an equaliser early on in the second period - with the Dane's assist being one of the finest you'll see - before substitute Hazard fired home emphatically to restore Chelsea's lead and Nemanja Matic rounded off a thrilling encounter as his 30-yard piledriver found the postage stamp in the top-left corner.

The definition of a thunderbastard.