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Newcastle victory third biggest FA Cup giant-killing ever

7 January 2022

New research reveals Top 10 FA Cup Third Round giant-killings with Stevenage’s 1 in 7,712 result included...

Stevenage’s 3-1 win over Newcastle in 2011 ranks third on list of most improbable Third Round victories based on a new mathematical model and data from over 8,000 fixtures.
 
Ahead of the Third Round of this season’s Emirates FA Cup – a stage that has become synonymous with results that defy logic throughout the competition’s 150-year history – The FA has today released new mathematical research that reveals the 10 most improbable FA Cup Third Round giant-killings.
 
The FA teamed-up with the Institute for Mathematical Innovation at the University of Bath to commission the research that considered Opta data from more than 8,000 FA Cup ties as part of the process. Using probability theory, the University was able to verify a historical top 10 of the least likely scorelines from the last 50 years of the competition.
 
In order to perform their calculations, Dr Adwaye Rambojun and Professor Andreas Kyprianou from the University of Bath built a bespoke mathematical model that takes in to account the overall probability of the lower league teams reaching the Third Round, the difference in league status and the timing and sequence of the goals scored in each tie.
 
Goal scoring and league position trends across more than 8,000 ties from the competition since the 1959-1960 season were also considered to understand how these factors historically influence the individual outcomes. The formula used in the study is expressed in the mathematical equation below:

FA Cup Upset Equation.png

The final list of results features several familiar ‘cupsets’ but now, for the very first time, the fixtures have been ranked in order of the statistical probability of each scoreline occurring.

Stevenage’s memorable 3-1 win over Premier League side Newcastle in 2011 has been ranked the third most improbable Third Round scoreline of the last 50 years – a result that would happen only once in every 7,712 attempts. In their first season of league football, Stevenage famously beat Newcastle who became only the fourth top-flight team since the formation of the Premier League to lose to fourth-tier opposition.

The full top 10 can be seen below, with additional context around the matches in the Notes to Editors section.

Third Round Tie

Probability

#1    West Bromwich Albion 2-4 Woking, 1991

1 in 15,959,312

#2    Hereford United 2-1 Newcastle United, 1972

1 in 32,449

#3    Stevenage 3-1 Newcastle United, 2011

1 in 7,712

#4    Birmingham City 1-2 Altrincham, 1986

1 in 4,376

#5    Oxford United 3-2 Swansea City, 2016

1 in 3,487

#6    Sutton United 2-1 Coventry City, 1989

1 in 3,260

#7    Burnley 0-1 Wimbledon, 1975

1 in 2,515

#8    Harlow Town 1-0 Leicester City, 1980

1 in 1,800

#9    Derby County 1-3 Bristol Rovers, 2002

1 in 397

#10  Newport County 2-1 Leicester City, 2019

1 in 337

Commenting on the research, Dr Adwaye Rambojun, Research Associate at the Institute for Mathematical Innovation at the University of Bath, said: “Using data from over 8,000 Emirates FA Cup matches, we produced a mathematical model that takes into account not only the relative league status of the teams involved and how many matches they won to get there but also in-game scoring sequences to compute the total probability of the biggest Third Round giant-killings in the last 50 years. Stevenage’s result defies logic but, as history proves, on any given day the unthinkable can happen. That’s the magic of the Emirates FA Cup and we have seen it time and again throughout the competition’s illustrious history.”

Alex Tunbridge, Stevenage CEO commented: “The team which beat Newcastle United were a very special group of players led by a manager who believed that attitude was more important than ability. Supported by a passionate and hostile home crowd on a cold night in January, individually and collectively each player performed to the best of their ability to comprehensively beat a high quality and established Premier League team. Whilst to many this may have been an unthinkable result, to the group of players, management team and supporters it was their combined self-belief which gave them the opportunity to create an FA Cup Giant Killing and write themselves and the club into the history books.”

Discussing the research findings, Andy Ambler, Director of Professional Game Relations at The FA, said: "It’s fascinating to look back at some of the Third Round games that have helped define the Emirates FA Cup and elevated it to the status of the world’s most popular domestic cup competition. The commissioned research outlines the competition’s ability to regularly defy logic and will hopefully spark many fond memories. In its 150th anniversary season, the Emirates FA Cup retains the values of hope, opportunity and equality. Improbable results are part of the competition’s fabric, providing life changing moments for players, managers, fans and communities alike and I am sure there will be plenty more to come as the competition looks ahead to an exciting future.”    

More details about the forthcoming Emirates FA Cup Third Round can be found on TheFA.com.


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