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Three title-defining matches in the Premier League era

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The 2020-21 Premier League season will go down as one of the most unpredictable campaigns in years, with nine different clubs sitting atop the points table at various points. Manchester City, who were as low as 11th in November, turned things around and are on course to win their fifth league title.

Often not, the greatest of title races have a shift in dynamics in the second half of a season. As recent as the 2018-19 campaign, City's 2-1 win over Liverpool at the start of 2019 opened up the title race, and the Sky Blues went on to lift their fourth crown, as they won 16 of their 17 games to topple the Reds.

That fixture is a title-defining result but simply not the greatest in this list of games that dramatically changed the course of a title race in past Premier League campaigns.

Liverpool 4–3 Newcastle United (1995–96 season)

The 1995-96 season is remembered for two things: Newcastle United squandering their 12-point lead in the title race to Manchester United and the other being Kevin Keegan's "I love it" rant aimed at then-Red Devils manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Nicknamed as 'The Entertainers', the Magpies were in thorough command of the Premier League, but as they approached matchday 26, the countdown to their surprise downfall kicked in motion. Newcastle secured a 2-1 win at Middlesborough on matchday 25, but they lost five of their next eight fixtures, including a 0-2 loss to Arsenal that saw Kevin Keegan's men surrender the top spot for the first time in the 1995-96 season.

The next fixture, rated as one of the greatest Premier League games of all time, was the final nail in the coffin as Liverpool's 4-3 win paved the way for Manchester United to take the lead in what was a one-sided title affair. Roy Evans' Reds took an early lead through Robbie Fowler in the second minute but trailed by 2-1 at half-time, with Les Ferdinand and David Ginola-Ceze finding the net in the 10th and 14th minute.

Within 12 minutes of the second half, Newcastle took the lead away from Liverpool once again as Faustino Asprilla cancelled out Fowler's 55th-minute strike with a 57th-minute goal. Just as Newcastle was set for a much-need victory, English striker Stan Collymore struck twice in the 68th and in stoppage time to send the Anfield faithful into a frenzy.

While this result dampened Newcastle's title hopes, Manchester United - leading the standings - had to wait until the campaign's final fixture to be crowned champions.

Manchester United 4-4 Everton (2011-12 season)

In the 2011-12 season, the Premier League saw the rise of Manchester's Blue side and the downfall of an erstwhile dynastic United. The Red Devils' error-ridden campaign was something of a shocker for fans who followed their 20-year journey in the Premier League - they never conceded four or more goals twice at home in a single league season.

Sir Alex Ferguson's men came into the tie five points clear of noisy neighbours Manchester City, and a win against Everton would put them a step closer to an unprecedented 20th English league title. However, the Toffees had a surprise in store, which would unsettle the reigning champions for the remainder of the campaign.

After 30 minutes of a tug-of-war for converting goalscoring opportunities, Everton took the lead in the 33rd minute through  Nikica Jelavic before Wayne Rooney equalized in the 41st minute. By the 69th minute, Manchester United led 4-2 with goals from Danny Welbeck, Nani, and Rooney (second of the game) apart from Marouane Fellaini's 67th-minute goal for the visitors.

Complacency overshadowed the United defence as they conceded twice in the final ten minutes of the game and finished at 4-4. The result meant City could go equal on points with their neighbours on the points table, with a win on the next matchday. At the end of the campaign, Roberto Mancini's men were declared champions based on a superior goal difference.

Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea (2013-14 season)

If there is a single campaign that Liverpool fans will strongly want to avoid, it will be the 2013-14 season where an infamous 'Gerrard slip' cost them the title.

Brendan Rodgers' men were unbeaten in the last 16 games in the league since January 1, 2014, but a costly error from Steven Gerrard - who miscued a Mamadou Sakho pass and then slipped - allowed Demba Ba to run unopposed and score Chelsea's first goal past Simon Mignolet.

The Liverpool captain tried to make amends with a couple of goal attempts, but sadly it didn't meet the target. The Reds, who were showcasing a better attacking intent than Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, couldn't make a solid breakthrough past the stubborn defence, and despite the introduction of Daniel Sturridge, the Merseysiders were still short of finding the net.

Their frustration grew deeper as former Red Fernando Torres broke clear of the Liverpool defence and set up Willian for the second goal. With the 2-0 win, Chelsea moved within two points of the Reds and blew the title race open.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Paul Ellis

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