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Assumed Win

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The Chicago Tribune in 1948 (erroneously) proclaims the victory of U.S. presidential candidate Thomas Dewey over Harry S. Truman, as held by President Harry Truman. Covers Always Lie...

"You know, a lot of people said winning this award four years in a row couldn't happen. Well, I guess I showed—"
Derek Zoolander (before realizing Hansel won Male Model of the Year), Zoolander

This guy's in a competition of some sort – let's say he's running for school president. When they start to announce the winner, he automatically assumes that he won; he'll stand up, get this smug look on his face and he might even start giving his acceptance speech. But he didn't win... it was his rival, some random underdog, a write-in vote, or a tie, or a mix and match of those things.

The comparable Real Life example is the Award Snub. See also Thwarted Coup de Grâce for when one side has the other dead to rights and has the execution screwed up somehow, and Passed-Over Promotion when someone is denied a promotion they thought they were a shoe-in for. Compare Snub by Omission. In sports, this often overlaps with Down to the Last Play, where the team that everyone thought had lost manages to take the lead after the point where viewers have concluded the game is effectively over and changed the channel.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Parodied in Azumanga Daioh. Yukari is announcing the highest scoring person in the class and, despite being the second-lowest scoring person in the class with no chance whatsoever, Tomo stands up just before the announcement. Similarly, earlier, when Chiyo is about to be called forward during the grad ceremony to be recognized for having the highest grades in the school, Yomi has to, repeatedly and with her usual growing irritation, tell Tomo "It's not you!"
  • Penguin Musume Heart has a reversal of this: Penguin gives a heartfelt speech about how Etorufu would make a better student council president then her, and then proceeds to accidentally vote for herself instead.
  • Gundam Build Fighters Try: In the Artistic Gunpla Cup at the end of the series, Minato Sakai is very confident that his entry, an MS Girl based on Fumina, is going to win. Everyone else is too (except Fumina herself, who is alternately wishing to either die of embarrassment or kill Minato), as it honestly is a very well-built model. When Meijin Kawaguchi announces the winner, he announces it's Entry #9, causing Minato to jump up in excitement... only for the Meijin to say "Oops, excuse me", turn the card over, and announce that Entry #6, Yuuma's Lightning Zeta Gundam, is the winner. Turns out building a model based on a real person without their permission is against the rules, and Minato was disqualified.
  • During the Chunin Exams in Naruto, after their chakras clash and cause an explosion that blows them away, Neji gets back up and walks to an apparently unconscious Naruto. He then manages to say "Sorry, but This Is Reality. You're a failure. This match is over..." right before the real Naruto bursts out from underground and delivers an uppercut to win the match.
  • Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle treated its character popularity-poll as an in-universe event. Princess Syalis shows up wearing an "I am number 1" headband and is quite miffed when it turns out that she only got third place.

    Comic Books 
  • There's a variant in the X-Wing Rogue Squadron comics. Two Rebels compete with two Imperial special forces troopers; whoever gets past the monster and grabs the golden sphere wins for their side. An Imperial got killed, a Rebel gave up his lead to save the other Rebel, and the Imperial got the sphere. Then a heat storm whipped up and killed them all. No, actually that was a virtual reality simulation, though they didn't know that going in. After they'd recovered, the Imperials congratulate the Rebels, smug in their victory. The judge says that maybe the Rebels won, since one saved the other, but when the Rebels are incredulous, he says no, the Imperials won, he was just impressed. It ends up moot anyway, since the Imperial trooper's commander stole the prize, a fugitive who knew something useful, and fled, leaving those troopers behind to be sold into slavery. Luckily for them the Rebels were happy to facilitate a Heel–Face Turn.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Blackbird (Arrow): This is what costs Ra's his duel against Oliver. He disarms Oliver and runs him through, fatally wounding him, but doesn't bother to finish him off. That gives Oliver enough time to power through the pain with a brief Heroic Second Wind and grab Ra's from behind and snap his neck.
  • In Blazing Generations, a sequel to the Sword Art Online fic I Will Not Bow, school bully Madoka enters a singing competition at school, and ends up cheating in the singing competition, bribing and blackmailing most of the school's better singers into not participating, as well as "accidentally" spilling water on Lilly in an attempt to force her to drop out. When Akane swaps dresses with her and drops out of the competition so Lilly can compete, Madoka gloatingly declares that they've basically just handed first place to her... and is subsequently mortified to discover that Lilly won first place, while she got second.
  • The Victors Project: A chilling version during the reaping for the First Quarter Quell, in which the boy from District 6 (a Self-Made Orphan who is one of the districts youngest and biggest drug lords) walks towards the stage before they call his name, having known that they'd vote for him. This is a rare case, which the person assuming the win does in fact win.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Cars: After the first race at the beginning of the movie:
    Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in Piston Cup history...
    Lightning: A rookie has won the Piston Cup. (leaps through paper partition) YES!
    Announcer: We have a three-way tie!
    Lightning: (shocked expression)
  • In The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, Mr Krabs announces that the new manager of the Krusty Krab 2 has "a name you all know, it starts with an S!". SpongeBob assumes the best, but has to humiliate himself three times over microphone before realising that the new manager is actually Squidward.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In a flashback from Austin Powers in Goldmember, Austin was suddenly proclaimed that year's International Man of Mystery instead of Dr. Evil, who was anticipating the award all along.
  • Om Shanti Om: During the parody Filmfare award ceremony, Abhishek Bachchan gets up from his seat fully expecting to win Best Actor... and then the presentors say Om's name. Oops.
  • In Zoolander, Derek Zoolander has won Male Model of the Year three times in a row. When newcomer rival Hansel (he's so hot right now) is announced as the winner, Derek doesn't notice and assumes he won, going up to the podium and giving an acceptance speech only to be corrected and humiliated in front of the crowd and viewers.
  • The final moment of The Oscar has the film's antagonist, Frankie Fane, up for a Best Actor Oscar (and having burned so many bridges that a win may be the only thing that keeps his career from plummeting to rock bottom). He is so confident in his victory that when presenter Merle Oberon reads the name "Frank..." he stands up, only for Oberon to continue (after an unnaturally long pause) with "... Sinatra!" Fane sinks back into his seat in shock.
  • In the 2007 adaptation of Hairspray, Amber and Tracy are the two most likely to win the title of Miss Teenage Hairspray. As the winner is announced, Amber steps forward with a smile to accept the award, only to find that she lost to Little Inez.
    • To clarify: Originally, Amber did win, until Tracy interrupted the ceremony. But then they keep the lines open during the final song, and Inez gets her chance to shine thanks to Link. Then it's also revealed that Amber's win was actually due to Velma manipulating the voting graph. Amber is amazingly humble about all this.
  • A variation occurs in The Naked Gun, when Drebin gets off a plane after a successful mission and assumes that the waiting crowd is there for him, only to be belatedly informed they are there because "Weird Al" Yankovic is also on the plane.
  • In Election, Tracy Flick assumes for the entire film that she's a lock for class president and stands up triumphantly as the election winner is announced... only for Dumb Jock Paul Metzler to be announced the winner instead, much to her shock and distress. However, this is actually a subversion: Tracy really had won the election and stood up when the winner was announced because she had received confirmation of her win from one of the students who had tallied the votes but her teacher Jim, not wanting her to win, had thrown away some of the votes for her after the votes were tallied so that Paul would be declared the winner instead. When the votes for Tracy that Jim had thrown away are found in the trash, she's recognized as the rightful winner.
  • Just One of the Guys: Big Jerk on Campus Greg smiles and straightens his collar before the prom king is announced. Surprisingly, he actually does win.

  • At the end of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne, Christopher Robin throws a party to reward Pooh for his heroism during a recent flood. Due to the vagueness of his award speech ("This party [...] is a party because of what someone did, and we all know who it was, and it's his party, because of what he did, and I've got a present for him and here it is.") there is some confusion over who the guest of honour is, and Eeyore launches into an acceptance speech before things are straightened out. Something of an oddity, in that Eeyore is not normally the sort to assume that he's the winner; on the contrary, he's so incorrigibly pessimistic that he figures he must be the guest of honour because otherwise he wouldn't have been invited at all.
    • In Winnie the Pooh (2011), after Pooh's friends have fallen into a pit intended for the Backson, Piglet escapes on a red balloon, which knocks some of the letters into the pit, which they use to climb out. Later, when it comes time to give out the awards, Rabbit awards the pot of honey to... the red balloon. Later, Pooh goes to Owl's house, and discovers that Owl had picked up Eeyore's tail and had been using it as a doorbell tassel. Later on, Pooh decides to return Eeyore's tail instead of staying for snacks, and he receives a giant pot of honey as his prize.
  • In one of The Baby-Sitters Club books, the members of the eponymous club each coach a regular babysitting charge to appear in a children's beauty contest. The rivalry between the girls is so intense that they can no longer babysit together, but all lose to a heavily made up child beauty queen with several other titles to her name.
    • This also happens in the Little Sister Spin-Off starring Kristy's stepsister, Karen. Her gymnastics teacher is announcing who qualified for a special traveling team, and Karen stands up to greet the teacher and "accept" the invitation right before she reads the last name; one of her classmates grabbed her and yanked her back down before she could embarrass herself further.
  • In A Week In December, R. Tranter thinks he's won the Pizza Palace book award for his biography of an obscure writer, to the point of hearing his own name being read out. His agent has to pull him back to his seat after it turns out that the author of a children's book rather surprisingly won.
  • In All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown, Sarah expects to win the History Prize being given for her graduating class, and her whole family expects it as well given how hard she's studied. Instead, she's crestfallen and humiliated when another girl is called as the winner.
  • In New Moan, a parody of Twilight, Heffa Lump (the book's version of Bella) assumes she's won an award at the end of the book and gets up to accept it. The principal of the school gives her one just to get her off the stage so they can get on with the real awards.
  • Inverted in Around the World in Eighty Days. Phileas Fogg, Aouda, and Passepartout arrive in London just in time to hear the bells signaling the deadline for finishing the race against time and they're nowhere near the finish line. Phileas resigns himself to his fate, decides to marry Aouda, and sends Passepartout to get a preacher. Passepartout returns with the news that they actually arrived in London the day before the deadline and they can still make the finish. It turns out that when they were adjusting their watches to local time, they ended up erasing an entire day from their journey.note 
  • I've Got You Under My Skin: Alison Schaeffer was so sure of receiving a medical scholarship from her college that she was already halfway out of her seat when it was awarded to another girl; Alison considers it the most humiliating moment of her life. Notably, this is not presented as a sign of Alison being overconfident: it is noted that the dean reacted awkwardly to reading the winner's name, and Betsy Powell's taunt to her implies that she persuaded the dean to change the winner from Alison at short notice; this is a significant reason for Alison's hatred of Betsy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • "Homecoming": Buffy and Cordelia spend the episode competing for the title of Homecoming Queen. At the Homecoming, it turns out there's a tie. Buffy and Cordelia immediately assume that it's the obvious heartwarming ending — but instead, it's a double Dark Horse Victory.
    • Subverted in the later episode "The Prom," when Buffy's fellow classmates recognize her heroism, though she had expected to be eternally subject to Dude, Where's My Reward?
    • At the same prom Buffy picked up the "class protector" award, Xander fully expected the Class Clown award. To his disgust, it went to a guy in a Tacky Tuxedo and balloon hat. "Anybody can be a prop class clown!"
  • Frasier used this trope at least twice.
    • In one episode, Frasier has been nominated for an award for his radio show. Initially determined to win, he talks to another character who is due to retire later that year, and so will never again have an opportunity to win the award (having never won it before). Frasier realises that if he does win, he'll be racked with guilt for having prevented the other guy from winning, and so starts to hope that the other guy wins it instead. When it is announced that it is a tie, he is suddenly hopeful, thinking that they could share the award, but the tie turns out to actually be between the remaining two nominees, neither of whom have been seen before.
    • In another episode, restaurant critic Gil Chesterton has received his first award nomination in a category with two other nominees. Once again, the verdict is announced as a tie, leading Gil to fume that he will have to share his award... and, as in the earlier episode, the tie turns out to be between the other two nominees.
  • When The Daily Show gave out its Employee of the Year award for 1999, Stephen Colbert launched into his acceptance speech the second he was named as a nominee. The award goes to a researcher instead; Colbert throws his notes across the room and storms off.
  • A queen of the high school reunion vote is held during an episode of Married... with Children. In it, Al Bundy distracts the entire banquet by getting into a fistfight outside, and comes back several minutes later victorious. The only one left in the room was Peggy... who then broke into the ballot box and removed every vote that wasn't for her. She still acted surprised when she won, while another woman was ready to give her acceptance speech before the winner was declared.
  • Ted Baxter did this in at least one of the "Teddy Awards" episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Mary herself did it once as well, albeit at Rhoda's urging.
    • In a news awards show, Murry was told in advance he'd win for best writing; when the award was presented he rose to accept before the announcement, only for it to be given to someone else. He was the only member of the news team to not win. (a ironic jab to the recent Emmy awards, where Gavin Mc Cloud was the only cast member not provide a statue). Bearing his disappointment in silence, his co-workers asked him after the show to read his acceptance speech, which even included a kind turn to Ted.
  • On The Muppet Show, Fozzie once was beaten to the title of "Best Comic Bear", by an unknown bear never ever seen before.
  • Top Gear:
    • In the first Africa special, the presenters (having bought used cars and successfully crossed Botswana) sit down to decide whose car was ultimately the best. Richard Hammond clearly expects his 1963 Opel Kadett ("Oliver") to win, since "he" made the journey unmodified, though the car did develop some problems after an unsuccessful attempt to ford a river. The other two presenters give the award to a Volkswagen Beetle instead, as it followed them as the backup vehicle and had no problems at all.
    • Another episode had a race across Liverpool to the Liver Building between James in a new Peugeot and a pair of traceurs. The trope came into play at the finish line.
      James: And they're not here. They are not here. No sign of combat trousers about. That is a victory for beer guts over washboard stomachs, fashionable clothes from army surplus shops, stupid expensive trousers. Here I am in my tatty jeans and my old biff-about shoes with the broken laces and I've won!
      (We see that the traceurs have scaled the tower of the Liver Building)
      James: Oh, for Pete's sake!
  • Inverted in an episode of Just Shoot Me!. Maya gets upset with Jack after she gets him to work for one of the charities she supports, he simply hires workers to do the work, and wins an award. The charity then goes to honor someone else. Convinced it's one of the models, Maya takes to the stage and verbally berates the charity for selling out. It's then revealed that the "someone else" is her.
  • One episode of The Facts of Life played this twice...with the same election. The previous episode had Edna's Edibles holding an election among the girls and Mrs. Garrett. This is put on the back burner when Natalie's father dies. The results of the election are read and Blair starts to take a victory pose when it's announced that Jo actually won. However, Jo becomes overcome with the attention and turns it down, prompting Blair to state that if the winner cannot perform her duties, the title passes to the first runner up. Mrs. Garrett then reveals that she herself is the first runner up. (Blair asks how she did and is told You Don't Want to Know.)
  • In The Golden Girls S6:E14 ("Sisters of the Bride"), Rose is so certain that she will be the winner of this year's Volunteer Vanguard Award that she spends most of the banquet practicing her acceptance speech and shouts YES! when she hears her name called. Unfortunately, Sophia, who's making the announcement, is only calling on Rose to bring her some water. It turns out that the winner is Agnes Bradshaw, whom Rose expected to beat since Agnes had recently passed away. Rose proceeds to have a meltdown:
    Rose: "It's a fix! She's dead! She doesn't need that on her mantel! SHE'S ON HER MANTEL!"
  • On an episode of Lizzie McGuire, the eponymous character and Claire are in the running for an election. As the results are announced, both of them stand up only for the winner to be the nerdy Tudgeman.
  • When Michael in The Office (US) is hosting his last Dundies, he presents the "Hottest In the Office" award to a guy that year, which according to him is his first time doing it. Ryan immediately gets up to accept it, but then subtly angrily sits down after Danny Cordray (who isn't even there) is announced as the winner.
    How do I feel about not winning Hottest In the Office this year? Um, I'm very relieved. How do-how do you even judge something like that? What is his criteria even? It's-it's so subjective.
  • One episode of Pair of Kings featured Lanny stuffing a ballot box with his name so he'd win the King For a Day contest. Lanny was so sure he'd win that, as soon as the winner had been announced, he started giving an order before realizing someone else had been announced as the winner.
  • Kickin' It: The Wasabi Warriors once entered a dance contest. When the winner of individual category was to be announced, an arrogant cheater was readying himself to accept it. Then one of the warriors was announced the winner.
  • A clip on America's Funniest Home Videos was taken during a high school ceremony of some sort, perhaps homecoming; one girl was crowned as queen before the announcers realised, oops, the girl next to her had actually won.
  • A.N.T. Farm:
    • Happens on the episode entitled "ClairvoyANT" to Cameron, Principal Skidmore even sets it up by saying this person has waited patiently through ceremony while everyone else won at least one trophy. But instead, it's Skidmore herself who wins the award.
    • Also happens to Lexi in the episode "EndurANTs". Lexi and Paisely disguise themselves as music and art ANTs in order to enter the ANT-Lympics and win the $50,000. When the announcer says "And the award goes to...", Lexi immediately goes onstage and starts bragging about herself and "thanking" everyone. However, she then finds out that the award is actually for an Australian team and angrily reveals her true age and occupation which sadly outranked Webster High to 2nd place with $49,000.
  • The Community episode "For A Few Paintballs More" does this twice in the space of a minute. After all of the Greendale and City College paintball players are eliminated, it's down to just Britta and two City College players. Britta takes them out and starts celebrating, only to be taken out by two more City College players who had remained hidden. The City College players and Dean Spreck start cheering over their victory when another City College player runs up to join in. The previous two realize they don't know him seconds before he shoots them both. He then removes his mask to reveal he's Pierce.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: This happens to Justin in the episode "Wizard Of The Year". Chancellor Tootietootie shows up at the Russo home to announce that one of the siblings will be receiving the Wizard Of The Year award. Justin immediately assumes that the award is for him and starts bragging about his delinquent class until Tootietootie reveals that the award is entitled to Alex for saving the world from the Angels of Darkness in "Wizards vs Angels". Justin is outraged by this and insists that he deserves it more, even delivering a heated holographic message at the banquet.
  • In season six of Veep Jonah runs for congress against Judy Sherman, his former second grade teacher. Jonah is abrasive, highly gaffe-prone, and possesses zero ability to connect with voters, while his opponent Judy, the widow of the former congressman, is a widely loved sweet old lady. Jonah looks certain to lose, until he shoots himself in the foot (literally) while filming a campaign commercial, and Judy is caught on camera saying "guns can be dangerous", causing the NRA to buy attack ads against her. On election day, Jonah eeks out a narrow win.
  • Inverted on Royal Pains when Evan runs for city council. After the election results are read and he loses, he goes to the council for something. When he gets there, he's immediately rushed into another room to be sworn in. It turns out the election coverage forgot to count the votes from one district.
  • Inverted on Cougar Town. Andy runs for mayor of Gulfhaven one season, then forgets about it. The following season reveals that he won the election but since he wasn't paying attention, he's been mayor for a month without realizing it.
  • Inverted on an early episode of Sliders. The group lands in a world where women have the prestigious jobs and positions while men are treated as second class citizens. Professor Arturo decides to run for mayor to make a change to the status quo. The early results claim that he's lost the election, so he opts to slide with the others to the next world. Just as he gets in the portal, it's discovered that the early results were wrong and he won.
  • On Legacies, the supernatural school is voting on who will be the members of a student council. Vampire MG and witch Lizzie each campaign hard for the role. When the winners are being announced, MG stands right up, brushing his suit and preparing his speech...only to learn that Kaleb (locked up for feeding on humans) has been voted to represent the vampires. Likewise, Lizzie is asking sister Josie how she looks just before it's revealed that Josie (who wasn't even running) has been voted the witch leader.
  • On Tattletales whenever there was a question where Charlie Brill felt he and wife Mitzi McCall would match each other, Charlie would shout "I smell victory!" It was quite comical when they didn't.
  • A few clips on World's Dumbest... feature races where the leader assumes that he's going to win, but ends up sabotaging himself and losing.
    • One race-car driver enters the home stretch with a commanding lead. He starts celebrating...and loses control, spins out, crashes into the wall, bounces off, and comes to a stop inches from the finish line. He ends up pushing his car across the line after everyone else has passed him, finishing dead last.
    • A roller derby racer starts celebrating his upcoming win...and fails to notice the guy behind him catching up and passing him just in time to win. Mr. Second Place then becomes a Sore Loser and gets himself disqualified.
  • Odd Squad:
    • In "Blob on the Job", Oren and Olaf end up winning the competition of catching the loose blob in Headquarters by way of stealing Olive and Otto's container and passing it off as theirs. Oprah sends Oren and Olaf to Blobsylvania to count blobs in what is, in their eyes, a reward, but Oprah informs Olive and Otto that it's anything but a reward. She explains that she knew they were the ones who caught the rest of the blob and that Oren and Olaf cheated, only saying that neither one of them wants to go to Blobsylvania.
    • In "Put Me In, Coach", Coach O puts down a point for Oriele and Orielle and declares them the winners of the competition, which leads them to begin cheering and leads Olympia and Otis to begin sulking as the background music swells. The credits then begin to roll, only for Coach O to elaborate by saying that Oriele and Orielle won the first round of the competition and not the competition itself. He then sends both girls to the penalty box for celebrating too early.

  • In Big Iron, Texas Red had already killed 20 men in the past, so the townsfolk of Agua Fria assume that The Arizona Ranger is going to be Texas Red's 21st kill when he gets into a Quick Draw contest with him. It's because of this that the swiftness of the Ranger is still talked about today.
    Oh he might have went on living/but he made one fatal slip/when he tried to match the Ranger with the Big Iron on his hip.

    Myths & Religion 
  • An ancient example: the Book of Esther in the Bible. King Ahasuerus asks his evil advisor Haman, "What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?" Thinking he is the man the king is referring to, Haman suggests an elaborate parade. But the man in question turns out to be Mordecai, the hero of the book and Haman's nemesis. And what's more, Haman himself is put in charge of carrying it out.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In a Calvin and Hobbes series, Calvin competes in his school's traffic-safety PSA contest. After creating a gory Scare 'Em Straight poster, he spends most of the strips taking his victory for granted, culminating in a daydream about the newspaper articles written and statues built in his honor — rudely interrupted by Susie informing him that she won.
  • An early 2010s story arc in Luann featured most of the primary female cast members entering a school beauty pageant, with resident Alpha Bitch (and former pageant winner, though she was stripped of her title for orchestrating a financial scam) Tiffany so certain that she will win that she berates the emcees into announcing her win, before correcting herself to "the winner". When the winner's name is read, Tiffany is halfway to the stage before she realises the emcees have announced Rosa Aragones (who was introduced into the comic in this arc) as the winner.


  • While not exactly a contest, there's a point in the DVD version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats where Munkustrap gets ready to laud a particularly worthy cat through song, and Mistoffelees stands up with a flourish... only Munkustrap means Jennyanydots. Mistoffelees shrinks down again like a cat trying to pretend he wasn't after the mouse that got away, and some nearby cats bat at him a bit, grinning.

    Video Games 

    Web Originals 
  • In A Very Potter Musical, Snape is about to read aloud the Gryffindor representative for the House Cup Tournament. When he sees the name, a sly smile crosses his face as he remarks how unusual it is that the representative is a significant person against whom he holds a grudge. Neville starts to stand up to accept the position before Snape snaps at him to sit back down.
  • For a Furcadia contest, creator Graphite made a dream called COLDFusion that turned Furcadia into a game of Atomica, which meant it didn't resemble Furcadia at all. He was absolutely sure he'd win first place—but the judges weren't sure how to rank it. Instead, they created a special category for that dream alone and Graphite was well-rewarded.
  • Homestar Runner gets this during the belated awards ceremony for the best costume in The House That Gave Sucky Treats cartoon. Only this is Homestar we're talking about, so he fully expects that he's about to win even though the award had just been given to Strong Bad and the show is now over.
  • Youtuber JCD Godot held a Yugioh tournament where players would compete using accurate decks of various characters from the animes. One of the early matches was Bastion Misawa from GX (a supporting character who didn't have a very good record on the show) vs. Don Thousand (the Final Boss of Zexal, who had one of the most powerful and broken decks ever in the anime). When the video was first posed, everyone assumed it was so short because Don Thousand had crushed Bastion 3-0. Turns out it was the other way around. In a recent ZEXAL tournament, this was also proven when JCD could not comprehend the power of Don Thousand when facing against Rata {RANK10YGO} personified in the anime, Anna Kaboom.
  • Table Flip dedicated three episodes to One Night Ultimate Werewolf. In the second, the players kill someone who wasn't a werewolf and discover that the werewolf cards were both in the center pile. The players assume that the entire group wins because there weren't any werewolves. Just before the episode ends, "Him" appears and informs the players that if none of them are werewolves, they only win if nobody dies. Since one of them was killed, they all lose.
  • Reddit has the r/prematurecelebration subreddit, which collects examples of people celebrating prematurely.
  • Connor and Joko both assume that they've won the SMPLive Assassin Event until they learn that neither have, as Carson has declared the event a failure.

    Web Comics 
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, when the choice for the court medium is announced, Annie's friends make sure to congratulate her on becoming the new court medium and Annie herself affects surprise at the choice. It takes them a while to realize that the name the court announced was not Annie's.
  • In the first chapter of morphE Tyler dives in to his fight-to-the-death with Billy and assumes that he has the thing beat. Unfortunately he didn't understand the game was not about killing his opponent but about instigating a near death experience to trigger an awakening as a mage. Amical shoots him in the shoulder to even the fight out and try to keep Billy as a mage.

    Western Animation 
  • Garfield and Friends, "Caped Avenger": A publisher Jon is trying to impress, seeing Garfield and Odie playing, is inspired with an idea for a comic book that he hires Jon on the spot to write. Garfield immediately starts thinking about royalties and star treatment — and then it turns out that the new comic book is to be about Odie.
  • The finale of Clone High involves Principal Scudworth bemoaning at being beaten by actor John Stamos for position of Prom King during their high school days, so he sets out to rig the contest of his own school to have a second chance. When the results are finally about to be announced, John Stamos arrives and the rigged automatic voting machine instantly changes the results to the Full House vet.
  • South Park:
    • Inverted when the boys bring in Kyle's cousin, Kyle as a ringer to make sure they lose and thus no longer have to play baseball.
    • Stan figures this when coaching pee wee hockey. Unfortunately he was Wrong Genre Savvy.
  • In season 3 of Winx Club, Bloom has come to Sky's millenium party, expecting to hear Sky announce her as his girlfriend (as he had promised in the previous episode). Bloom starts to walk up while he's making his speech, but then it ends with him introducing Diaspro instead of her. It turns out that Diaspro has secretly given Sky a potion to make him love her instead.
  • Family Guy:
    • In the episode where Peter takes over the local production of "The King and I", he initially dismisses Cleveland's wife Loretta from the role of Anna to hand it to local news anchor Diane Simmons. When Diane storms off, Peter says that the role is going to the person who really deserves it, someone tempered by generations of oppression of African-Americans. Loretta starts to thank Peter, only for him to interrupt "Don't be so full of yourself, I'm talking about me".
    • In the episode where Peter helps Joe train for the Special Olympics, after Joe becomes a champion and celebrity he starts acting like it was all him. At an awards ceremony he says he wants to thank Peter...Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame. He then thanks Mr. Griffin...comedian Eddie Griffin. Finally, the man to whom he owes everything, the fat Dom DeLuise (who remarks "Wow, I didn't even do anything!"). At this point a frustrated Peter stands up and calls Joe out.
  • Nigel Uno suffers this indignity twice in the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation Elections", first when the 4th grade secretary announces the Delightfuls as winners of the presidential election he was running for (he had already prepared a speech which referenced some previous episodes' events, and was walking out to the podium as soon as the secretary said "And now, meet your new president"), and then at the end when he's told (while he's making his speech) that Eggbert Eggelstein won (even though the secretary had told him earlier that Nigel did win: it turns out he only said that so Nigel could break him out of detention).
  • The Simpsons:
    • Played for laughs in the episode "The Mansion Family", in which Homer is the only person who does not earn a Springfield Pride Award. He gasps in anticipation when it is said the next winner "brings laughter and joy to the children of Springfield", even though he is not known for anything like that. He still stands up and adjusts his tie when it is said the winner has a "red nose" and "baggy pants" and it is not until the winner's name is announced that he realises he has not won.
    • The B-plot of "Lisa's Substitute" has Bart running for class president, and declaring where his victory party will be held at the moment the polls are opened. Unfortunately, everyone's so busy celebrating that they forget to vote, leading to Martin Prince's moment of triumph with a parody of the "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline mentioned above.
    • When Miss Krabbaple has been nominated for a teacher's award, she is saying how this couldn't be possible without the support of just one person. This is in front of a group of people outside the school, and Principal Skinner walks up to the podium to acknowledge this, smiling, but once Bart's name is announced, he keeps walking and grinning to avoid embarrassment.
    • At the beginning of "Deep Space Homer", he's expecting the "Worker of the Week" award because every other worker already received it — but instead, it goes to an inanimate carbon rod.
    • In "Lisa's Rival", Lisa gets into an epic saxophone duel with Allison Taylor during an audition for First Chair in the school band, culminating with them blasting a long note until Lisa faints.
      Mr. Largo: Oh! That was a close one, Lisa, but you made it.
      Lisa: I won First Chair?
      Mr. Largo: No, you regained consciousness. Alison got First Chair!
      (Lisa screams, then finds herself waking up)
      Lisa: Oh, it was just a dream...
      (The exact previous scenario happens again... with one difference)
      Mr. Largo: ...and believe me, this is not a dream!
      • This also happens again at the end of the episode with the 2nd grade class's dioramas. Lisa hides Alison's of The Tell-Tale Heart because she's a shoo-in for first prize, but actually lives out the events due to her guilt and eventually reveals it... but Alison loses anyway. Lisa figures she'll get first prize now, but doesn't want to because of what she did... but she doesn't get it anyway. Nope, instead Ralph gets it for a simple diorama made up of old Star Wars figures.
  • This occurs in CatDog twice in one episode. Cat, the intelligent and well read main character, auditions for a play about Abraham Lincoln, believing himself to be an incredible actor but ends up losing and humiliating himself when Dog, The Ditz, wins the part by a landslide. Cat, thoroughly incensed, sabotages Dog's health in order to win the part and ends up succeeding due to Dog being incapacitated by his illness. Thus, Cat stars as the leading role as Abraham Lincoln and ends up doing an amazing job, earning a standing ovation for his performance. Later at an award ceremony, Cat awaits his award for best actor, knowing that he deserved it because of his skill and finesse and thus, makes his speech before the award is even given out. The award goes to Dog instead, for his amazing performance as Abraham Lincoln's mute steed and it turns out that the standing ovation from before was all for Dog.
  • Played for laughs in Futurama when Leela wins an intergalactic beauty pageant despite having nothing to do with the pageant only to find that the announcer, Zapp Brannigan, simply yelled her name in surprise while he was trying to open the winning envelope. "What are you people, idiots?" Of course, in another episode, Zapp declared her the winner of a limbo contest she didn't enter, so, y'know...
  • From Jem and the Holograms, "Hollywood Jem: Part 2 - And The Winner Is..." has Kimber Benton assuming Jerrica "Jem" Benton is going to win an Oscar for Starbright, but an older, more experienced actress that had given Jem a hard time in the press wins the award — and her speech includes an apology for how badly she treated Jem.
  • In one Kim Possible episode they were going to have an exchange student sent to Japan. Did the Japan fanboy who stood up get the place? No, it was Ron Stoppable, who essentially got A Day in the Limelight.
    • The eponymous Kim Possible had this happen to herself, after Bonnie was implied to have rigged the homecoming Queen vote in her favour, or at least knew about it beforehand.
    • Also during the Talent Show episode, Kim competed, and both she and Bonnie assumed they would win, when the prize went to Ron Stoppable, the judge citing quantity over quality. It should be noted, though, that Ron competed solely to stall for Kim to finish her mission and perform on time.
  • In the Recess episode 'Principal For A Day." When the faculty draws a sudents name out of a box to be principal for a day Randall stands up thinking he won (because he stuffed the box). The actual winner is TJ. (The principal had the drawing rigged.)
  • Played for laughs on Arthur when George, whose performance we never actually saw, won the school talent show with some kind of pogo-stick act. Lampshaded seasons later when George won again (complete with Stock Footage of the award announcement).
    Arthur (to Francine, who lost): "Maybe next year you should sing, play the drums, and hop on a pogo stick."
    • Another episode had Michelle Kwan come to present an Athlete of the Year award. Everyone assumed Francine would win, including herself. To their surprise, Jenna won instead. The shock of the announcement took a while to sink in for Francine, who stood up and thanked everyone anyway.
  • On Teacher's Pet, both Leonard and Scott are shocked when the class presidency goes to Ian.
  • Bugs Bunny in the 1943 cartoon What's Cookin', Doc? He's so sure he's going to win the Academy Award that he's already up on stage next to the host (whose shadow we see as he delivers his spiel), who, to Bugs' shock, announces the winner is James Cagney (who actually did win Best Actor at the awards held in 1943).
    • In This Is a Life?, Daffy Duck thinks the weekly testimonial will be about him when it turns out to be about Bugs.
      • Daffy has a habit of this, owing to his ego. In Show Biz Bugs he brags to the cabbie dropping him off at the theatre that he's the star attraction, only to see that Bugs Bunny has top billing.
      • And finally, much later, during Bugs Bunny's Wild World of Sports (basically an half-hour Clip Show), Daffy has "wised up" and suspects all through the special that Bugs will win the award. Foghorn Leghorn wins the award.
  • Beetlejuice had an episode where Lydia's rival Claire Brewster is running for school president, so Beetlejuice—as his drag alter ego, Betty Juice—enters the race as well. After alienating the students with constant mudslinging (both literal and figurative), they both lose to a virtual unknown.
  • In the Goof Troop episode, "Meanwhile, Back at the Ramp", Pete thinks that he will win an award for being the best father in the class. When it unsurprisingly turns out that Goofy wins instead, Pete's son PJ has to stifle his giggles.
  • Sabrina: The Animated Series: In the Made-for-TV Movie "Sabrina: Friends Forever", the movie's Alpha Bitch assumed she'd win an award but Sabrina won.
  • Hero: 108: The episode "Turtle Cannon Competition III" begins with an awards show, where First Squad is up for an award for "Best Teamwork", alongside other divisions of Big Green. Their rivals Second Squad are initially announced as the winners, only for one of them to cause Ape-Truly to realise his mistake and announce First Squad as the real winners.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Crusaders of the Lost Mark", Diamond Tiara's mother had a party for when her daughter won the school election. Diamond didn't win though, in fact only one foal voted for her. Herself. Even her sidekick Silver Spoon voted against her.
    • In "A Horse Shoe-In", Starlight Glimmer holds auditions for the School of Friendship's vice headmare. Trixie automatically assumes that since she and Starlight are friends, she'll be given the job and that the auditions are just a formality. As a result, she doesn't take the auditions seriously and just proves she is unfit for the job.
    • In "Fall Weather Friends" Applejack and Rainbow Dash are so certain that one of them will win the race that they spend all of their energy sabotaging each other and completely disregarding the other racers. This slows them both down so much they end up tied for dead last.
  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Hare Raising Night", Buster tricks Babs, Plucky, and Hamton into helping him stop the mutant experiments of Dr. Gene Splicer by telling them they're going to the Emmy Awards, which Plucky continues to believe for the rest of the episode. At the end of the episode, Buster makes up for lying to his friends by taking them to the real Emmy Awards. When the Award Presenter announces the winner for Best Supporting Actor in a Cartoon, Plucky walks towards the stage, thinking he is going to win the Emmy. The Emmy goes to Melvin the Monster, one of Splicer's failed experiments instead.
  • In the Thomas & Friends special, The Great Race, James is entered in the Best Decorated Engine competition, and as the host is about to announce the winner, James puffs forward, thinking it's him, only to stop when realizing it's really Rajiv of India who won.
  • In an episode of Sushi Pack, the city is about to unvale a statue of one of their superheroes, and the pack all assume that it's going to be of them, only to discover that the statue is of Kato Platypus.
  • A meta example occurs with the Steven Universe episode "Dewey Wins", which centers around Mayor Bill Dewey's reelection campaign. Despite the episode's title, Dewey ends up losing the election to Nanefua. This is likely in reference to the "Dewey Defeats Truman" incident detailed below.

Real life examples:

  • The 1948 presidential election between Harry S. Truman and Thomas Dewey is the king of real life election upsets.
    • Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt's elevated vice president, was running for a second term against Dewey, the charismatic governor of New York and the 1944 Republican presidential nominee, which would result in a fifth consecutive Democratic presidential victory. Truman seemed doomed to failure: he had low approval ratings, barely earned the nomination of his party, and opinion polls (then in their infancy) had Dewey winning the election in a landslide. Truman's campaign was perpetually cash-short, and nearly all of his aides and even his wife, Bess, believed that they were going to lose. Dewey, on the other hand, was coddled by the media, his campaign was a well-funded machine, and some of his staff were so confident in him winning that they had already bought homes in D.C. in preparation for working in his administration. The Democratic Party appeared in shambles, with Strom Thurmond and Henry Wallace leaving the party and running as third party candidates, siphoning off much of Truman's support. 80% of newspapers and magazines endorsed Dewey and had prewritten their election coverage believing he would win, with the Chicago Daily Tribune going to print with the infamous "Dewey Defeats Truman" bulldog edition headline on election night.
    • Truman, believing that he had nothing to lose, spent the final weeks of the election crisscrossing the country, making up to thirteen campaign stops a day, holding rallies where he ridiculed Dewey's refusal to address specific issues and the Republican-controlled "do nothing" Congress with a wave of relentless and blistering partisan assaults. While this happened, Dewey defaulted to a "run out the clock" strategy, avoiding controversial issues and speaking vaguely of his plans for his presidency, including the now infamous quote, "You know that your future is still ahead of you." The major polls were so sure of Dewey's victory that they stopped polling voters weeks before the election, missing the "Hail Mary" surge of Truman's support from his aggressive campaigning in the final days.
    • On election night, the returns skewed much more towards Truman than expected, with Dewey barely carrying New York (his home state where he was the sitting governor) and Pennsylvania (then a GOP stronghold thanks to an entrenched Republican political machine in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh only just transitioning away from a similar arrangement). Truman acquired an early lead that he never lost, and reached the electoral votes needed to win by the next morning. Truman narrowly won Ohio, California, and Illinois, which carried a total of 78 electoral votes.note 
    • Complacency on Dewey's part also aided his defeat. He didn't vigorously contest states like Ohio and Wisconsin where he had defeated President Roosevelt four years earlier, assuming that he would easily win them again, and they ended up flipping to Truman. Ultimately, Dewey's popular vote percentage was slightly lower than it was in 1944. Thurmond and Wallace also didn't end up taking away as many voters from Truman as thought, also a cause of Truman's higher than expected totals. Historians also note that the country's post-war economy was booming, and sitting presidents almost never lose when the economy is strong. Truman famously posed with the incorrect Chicago Tribune, but we can assume that Dewey was not so enchanted.
  • Funny how the lesson wasn't learned in 2000, when networks prematurely called the election for Bush and then Gore and then Bush again, and many newspapers had to scramble to reprint the front page headline.
  • The 1916 presidential election: Republican challenger Charles Evans Hughes went to bed believing that he had won the election, but late returns from California showed that Woodrow Wilson had carried the state, and thereby the Electoral College. An apocryphal account states a reporter called to ask Hughes for his reaction and was told by a servant "The President-elect has retired and does not wish to be disturbed." To which the reporter said, "When the President-elect is available, please tell him that he is not the President-elect." This incident is depicted in the 1944 film Wilson.
  • Similarly, during the 1976 Democratic presidential primary in Wisconsin, Arizona Congressman Mo Udall had been projected the winner of that primary over front-runner Jimmy Carter, with some newspapers printing that Udall had won in their headlines and Udall himself proclaiming "Oh, how sweet it is" (Udall was hoping that a win would slow down Carter's momentum to the nomination). Once the votes were counted, it was Carter that won that particular primary by 1% (roughly 7,500 votes) en route to the nomination and the presidency, while Udall would finish a distant second at the Democratic Convention that year. (Udall rather memorably "accepted" defeat by saying "The people have spoken— the bastards.")
  • A non-voting example: in the lead up to the 1988 vice presidential debate, there was a general expectation that the Republican nominee, Senator Dan Quayle, would mop the floor with the Democratic nominee, Senator Lloyd Bentsen. 41-year-old Quayle was charismatic, photogenic, and full of quips; while Bentsen, 67, was anything but, and reportedly wanted to skip the debate out of fear of being outshined by Quayle. During the debate, Quayle compared himself to John F. Kennedy and Bentsen delivered his infamous put-down, "I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." The media agreed that the debate was a disaster for Quayle and this line was pretty much the only thing that anyone took away from it. (This didn't affect the outcome much, and the Bush/Quayle ticket won in a landslide.)
  • The 1990 US Senate election in Minnesota had incumbent Senator Rudy Boschwitz go up against Paul Wellstone, a political science professor at Carleton College who had never held government office. Boschwitz outraised Wellstone by a 7-to-1 margin and tepidly campaigned, viewing Wellstone as a fringe candidate who posed no serious risk to his re-election bid, and never responded to Wellstone's requests for a debate. The New York Times described Wellstone's campaign style as "[wearing] work shirts and jeans, Mr. Wellstone traveled the state in a rickety school bus, wrote his own speeches and stayed in people's homes rather than hotels." Boschwitz didn't hit the campaign trail in earnest until late October polls showed a gap of only a few percentage points separating the two, down from the large leads that he had held throughout the year, though Boschwitz still usually polled ahead. Wellstone's everyman image struck a chord with voters, and he won the election by 48,000 votes and a margin of 2.5%.
  • Hillary Clinton was expected to cruise to a victory in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, even though Illinois Senator Barack Obama had been gaining in the polls. Clinton's campaign was so confident of an early win that it hadn't made any preparations for a race going beyond early February (the final primaries were scheduled for June). The first contest in Iowa was won by Obama, with Clinton coming in third. The primaries turned into a protracted contest, with Obama only reaching a majority on the final day.
    • Though Hillary Clinton has a habit of ending up on the losing side of political upsets, one upset in her favor was the New Hampshire primary. On the day of the contest, the polls had Barack Obama ahead by nearly 10% riding on a surge of momentum and would be in for a sizable win. Clinton's campaign was so sure they were in for a loss that they wanted to leave the state early and campaign for future contests, but she insisted on campaigning until election day. Women and senior voters ended up heavily breaking for her, and during an event on election day, Clinton nearly broke into tears, which apparently helped voters empathize with her. When the results came in, Clinton eked out a narrow win.
  • In the 2009 Israeli national elections, the Kadima party assumed victory since they won the most seats, one seat more than the runner-up Likud party. However, since Israel uses a parliamentary system, the winning party is required to form a coalition government made up of the majority of the parliament. Kadima was unable to do so, since the smaller parties were aligned with the Likud, leaving Likud the actual winner.
  • In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney was apparently almost sure that he was going to defeat President Barack Obama. Polling for the most part indicated a close race, though Romney's much-hyped "Project Orca" computer system for tracking voters indicated that he would win decisively. The Romney campaign was so sure of a win that they planned an election night fireworks display, had already designed a transition website, and Romney had written a victory speech but hadn't bothered with a concession speech. On election night, Obama performed much stronger than polls anticipated and won most of the major swing states early, and Ohio's call at 11 pm EST pushed Obama over the 270 electoral votes needed to win re-election.
  • In 2012, it was widely assumed that the North Dakota U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Kent Conrad would be an easy Republican pickup given the lean of the state. The state's at-large U.S. representative Rick Berg won the GOP nomination and was considered a shoe-in to be the state's next U.S. senator, though Democratic nominee Heidi Heitkamp proved to be a surprisingly strong campaigner. Polls in the deep-red state varied, some showed a close race while others had Heitkamp trailing Berg by double-digits. Heitkamp managed to pull off a narrow 0.9% win, impressive considering fellow Democrat President Obama simultaneously lost the state by nearly 20-points in the presidential election. The next morning, she recreated the iconic Truman photo, holding up a newspaper showing its final pre-election poll showing her 10-points behind.
  • In 2014, Eric Cantor, then the House Majority Leader, was confident that he would cruise to reelection in his central Virginia district even though his primary challenger David Brat, a college professor who had never held government office, had been gaining ground against him in polls, running on an anti-establishment and right-wing populist platform. Cantor had the backing of the national party and outspent Brat 40-to-1. Cantor apparently didn't consider Brat much of a threat and rented out a large ballroom for what he assumed would be his victory party. Soon after polls closed, the race was called for Brat, who won by a comfortable 10% margin. To be "Cantored" even became political terminology for when a high-ranking politician is unexpectedly defeated by an unknown from within their own party.
    • 2018 had a few Cantorings. In New York's 14th district, Joe Crowley was one of the top-ranking Democrats in Congress and had been frequently mentioned as a potential speaker should his party regain control of the House. Crowley had served for ten terms and never had to compete in a primary until Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old bartender and Democratic Socialist running her first campaign, challenged him. Crowley didn't perceive her as a threat— the only available polling showed him 36 points ahead. In the end it wasn't even close, Ocasio-Cortez won by a comfortable 15% margin in what the media referred to as a "titanic upset", and Crowley couldn't concede because his campaign never bothered to ask for her phone number. This set the stage for another longtime establishment figure in the Democratic Party, Boston's Mike Capuano, to be ousted by Ayanna Pressley in a similar upset after polls had her trailing by double-digits less than a month out.
  • The 2014 Maryland gubernatorial election started with Democratic incumbent Lieutenant Governor Anthony G. Brown running against Republican Larry Hogan. Brown had several major advantages out of the gate, he outraised Hogan by a 2-to-1 margin, had high-profile surrogates like Barack and Michelle Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton traveling the state on his behalf, and stated that he thought his victory in the heavily Democratic-leaning state would be "a little bit of a molehill". Every public poll taken of the race showed Brown ahead, usually by double-digit margins. On Election Day, returns skewed surprisingly strongly for Hogan, with low turnout in urban areas, and the race was called for Hogan a few hours later. A post-mortem in Politico credited Hogan's strong anti-tax message and Brown's lack of any strong message for the upset.
  • The 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was one of the biggest pundit failures in history,note  to the point that one could call it "Dewey v. Truman 2: Electric Boogaloo". Prior to the election, Clinton was considered to have handily won all three presidential debates, led in nearly all polls, and forecasters universally predicted that she would win with an unbreakable 270-plus vote "firewall" and Trump never had a prayer of winning. FiveThirtyEight, the most conservative forecaster, gave her a 71% chance of winning, while The New York Times pegged her at 85% and Huffpost Pollster at 98%. Clinton's campaign planned a massive victory rally at New York City's Javits Convention Center, a fireworks display over the Hudson River on election night, and confetti falling from its glass ceiling to resemble shattering. Trump held a modest election night event in the New York Hilton ballroom, expecting to only deliver a short concession speech. Newsweek even printed and shipped to stores a commemorative issue celebrating Clinton's victory as the first woman president. On election night, Trump unexpectedly won Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsinnote  by narrow margins, all states that Clinton had an overestimated but still comfortable polling lead in, and none of which had voted Republican in a presidential election since the 1980s. This is attributed to the high turnout from non-college educated white voters and a decline in reliable Democratic demographics like unionized workers and African Americans. Trump won the electoral college and therefore the presidency. While the polling industry was widely criticized for its perceived overconfidence in Clinton winning, the one thing that most polls did accurately predict was that Clinton would receive substantially more votes than Trump nationwide, with her winning the popular vote by 2.9 million and a margin of 48%-46%.
    • Michigan's polling failure must have given Clinton deja-vu, because just months earlier, polls indicated that she would win the state's primary election against Bernie Sanders in a landslide, while in the end Sanders won the state by a narrow margin.
  • After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") on June 28, 2012, CNN and Fox News Channel incorrectly reported that the law had been repealed right as the news broke. Apparently they rushed through the court's text and did not realize that the controversial mandate that the court was reviewing had been upheld as a tax. Given the nuance, in this case, it could be honestly misread in the rush to get to air. At the crux of the case was whether Congress could enact legislation that compelled participation in interstate commerce, i.e. force someone to buy something. The ruling said that while Congress could regulate interstate commerce, it could not compel a citizen to participate in it. This is where Fox began reporting on the repeal, as it doomed the government's argument. However, further on, SCOTUS found that the ACA was a Tax without using the T-Word, and under that logic, the bill was a-okay. It should be pointed out that this was not the victory that proponents wanted, because much of the opposition to the bill was centered on it being forced participation and/or a tax.
    • In 2017, after the Republicans gained control of the presidency, Senate, and House, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried unsuccessfully several times to pass an Obamacare repeal bill that appealed to both moderates and conservatives in the party. In July 2017 his party drafted what the media referred to as a "skinny repeal" bill that would repeal key parts of Obamacare and had seemingly secured enough votes to pass it, as only moderate Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski publicly opposed the bill, and a 50-50 tie would be broken by Vice President Mike Pence who would pass it. During the floor vote Sen. John McCain unexpectedly voted against the bill, causing it to fail 51-49.
  • During the elections for the new pope in 2013, many of the Italian cardinals assumed Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola would be picked, and had already sent him letters of congratulation when it was revealed that Argentinian Jorge Bergoglio was picked instead.
    • And on the subject of papal elections: "A man who enters the conclave as pope will often leave it as [a] cardinal". Cardinals have historically tended to react poorly to a fellow cardinal being so crass as to campaign for the role of pope, let alone being so arrogant as to think their victory is assured.
  • Tony Abbott's first attempt at a Federal election in Australia. Some time during the live count, the entire party was celebrating what looked like an insurmountable lead. As it turned out, both major parties tied for seats won — and the independents who won the remaining seats chose to favour Julia Gillard's party, giving her the win.
  • Australia later had a famous example with the 2019 Federal Election. The reigning Liberal Coalition had been behind in the polls for years prior, and nearly every opinion poll agreed that it wasn't a question of if they would lose the election, but by how much, with the Liberal campaign considered to more be about making their inevitable defeat less of a bloodbath. Come election day, not only did the Liberals win, they won by a huge margin, taking their government from a Minority to a Majority, in a result that nearly inverted the predicted one. Prime Minister Scott Morison even described it as a "miracle" in his victory speech. The failure of the opinion polls was generally chalked up to the changes in telephone habits, with the ensuing drop in response rates leading to poor quality data.
  • The 2016 U.S. Senate election in Wisconsin featured incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson in a rematch with former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, whom he had defeated in 2010. Johnson had low approval ratings, no Republican had won a senate race in Wisconsin in a presidential election year since Bob Kasten in 1980note  and after the GOP took control of the Senate in the 2014 elections the Wisconsin race became a top target for Democrats hoping to regain a majority. Feingold led by large margins in the polls and throughout the year, and most regarded Wisconsin as a safe pick up for the Democrats, with even Republicans thinking that their resources would be better used elsewhere, and cancelled over $2 million in ad buys for Johnson. In September, FiveThirtyEight referred to the contest as "[seeming as] close to a sure thing for Democrats" and gave Feingold a 94% chance of winning. In October, however, Johnson started to close the gap, but most polls and pundits still favored Feingold. On Election Day, to the surprise of almost everyone, Johnson ended up defeating Feingold by nearly 4% as Trump made a similar shocking victory.
  • The death of Republican Pennsylvania Senator H. John Heinz III led to a special election to fill his seat in 1991. The Republican nominee Dick Thornburgh, a former governor and U.S. Attorney General, led the polls by 40 points over the Democratic nominee Harris Wofford, who had been appointed to fill the seat, and Pennsylvania Democrats thought that Governor Bob Casey, who appointed Wofford, wasted a chance to select a top tier candidate and had handed the seat back to the Republicans. However, similar to Dewey vs. Truman, Thornburgh focused mainly on avoiding mistakes and didn't aggressively campaign, which allowed Wofford to gain traction, mostly with working class voters. Wofford ultimately won the race by 10%.
  • In 1980, 27-year old Chris Smith challenged longtime Democratic Congressman Frank Thompson of New Jersey. He had previously challenged Thompson in 1978 and lost 61%–37%. He was thought to have no chance of winning, but then Thompson was indicted in the ABSCAM sting operation, where he was caught taking a bribe. The controversy of the scandal, combined with Ronald Reagan's strong performance in the district during the presidential election allowed Smith to defeat Thompson 57%–41%. When Smith was up for reelection in 1982, many had dismissed his win as a fluke and expected the Democratic challenger, New Jersey Senate President Joseph P. Merlino, to win. After one of their debates, when Smith offered pleasantries Merlino rebuked him, saying "Beat it, kid." However, despite Democrats regaining many of the House seats lost in 1980, Smith managed to win reelection 53%-47%. As of 2021, Smith is still in office, having won at least 55% of the vote in each subsequent election.
  • Over the last few years, Canadian polling companies have unfortunately gotten several provincial and municipal election outcomes spectacularly wrong.
    • 2012: Alberta, and to a lesser extent Quebec.
    • 2013: BC, which resulted in most Canadian pollsters basically ignoring the province for several years. BC NDP campaign director Brian Topp wrote a post-mortem about how the campaign went so wrong. Thankfully averted in the Nova Scotia provincial election eight months later, but that only lead to...
    • 2014: Ontario
    • 2017: The polls for the Calgary municipal elections were so wrong (projecting Bill Smith with a double-digit point lead over incumbent mayor Naheed Nenshi, only for Nenshi to defeat Smith by eight percentage points), that the polling industry actually launched an investigation into Mainstreet Research. There was another provincial election in B.C. as well, but for once, the polls were dead on, leading to another refreshing aversion in a province that desperately needed it.
    • 2021: Nova Scotia. Everyone, pollsters included, expected the Liberals to coast back into government. Additionally, other provincial governments across the entire political spectrum won re-election in COVID-19 Pandemic elections around the same time, such as in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Yukon, and Newfoundland. But the rookie Liberal leader who called the election, Iain Rankin, proved to be uninspiring in the face of Progressive Conservative opponent Tim Houston's more on-point campaign. The Progressive Conservatives gained 14 seats to make up a majority government, while all other parties lost seats, ousting Rankin as premier.
  • Going into the 1992 UK general election, few gave the ruling Conservative Party any hope of clinging onto power, due to lingering resentment at former prime minister Margaret Thatcher's catastrophically unpopular final years in power, replacement John Major's uncharismatic nature, and Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock having generally impressed since taking office. In the final weeks of the campaign, however, Major took to extensively campaigning in public (something Thatcher hadn't bothered much with in the previous two elections), while Labour organized a huge victory rally in Sheffield... over a week before election day. The end result of this was that Major came across as someone in touch with the public, whereas Kinnock seemed over-confident and overblown, and it led to the fourth Conservative majority government in a row, albeit with a substantially reduced majority.
  • The 2015 UK election was essentially a repeat of 1992; following five years of a not especially popular Conservative/Liberal-Democrat coalition government, most of the polls indicated that Conservative PM David Cameron would almost certainly lose out to the Labour Party lead by Ed Milliband, and at best would be forced to continue in a coalition government with either the Liberal-Democrats or the UK Independence Party, who were rapidly taking over as the most popular third-party option. Instead, not only did Labour not win, they went down to their worst defeat since their infamously terrible showing in 1983, with the Conservatives surging into a relatively secure majority government, largely in part thanks to the Liberal-Democrat vote collapsing, and UKIP collecting a lot of votes, but winning only one seat.
  • The 2016 referendum on the UK's membership in the European Union was assumed by many to be an automatic win for the "remain" side, particularly as the majority of Government officials were championing this. It was something of a surprise therefore when the "leave" campaign won with a slim majority. This was partially due to people being so overconfident they would win they didn't bother to vote or deciding to "Protest Vote" against the Prime Minister by voting Leave, even if they didn't personally support it. This created a moment as many newspapers had already gone to press with pro-EU headlines assuming Remain would win.
  • Played with in the 2017 UK election. From the start there was absolutely no doubt that the Conservative Party were going to win, and they ultimately did secure victory... but in a manner that no doubt felt like a defeat.
    • The new Conservative leader, Theresa May called a snap election on the back of record-breaking approval ratings for her government, and it was widely expected that at the very least the party would significantly extend the small majority that David Cameron had earned two years prior, with some even predicting they might match their all-time best performance from 1931.
    • Everything seemed to be lining up for a big Tory win, with new Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn having had low approval ratings since he took office, the Liberal-Democrats still being yet to recover from being nearly wiped out two years prior, and UKIP's vote having collapsed following a lengthy leadership crisis and a shambolic attempt to get their latest leader elected to parliament in a by-election.
    • As a result, May did barely any campaigning for the election, refused to take part in the televised leadership debates on the implied grounds that she didn't think the other party leaders to be even worth acknowledging, and gave little more than vague soundbites when she did bother campaigning.
    • Corbyn, meanwhile, put much more effort into his campaigning, coming across much better than expected. Still, the polls at first indicated an enormous Tory majority, and even after a late Labour surge they still looked good to extent their existing majority.
    • Ultimately, the Tories did win the election, but not only with fewer seats than two years prior, but they lost enough seats to lose their majority in parliament, forcing them to rely on the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland to prop them up.
  • In the 2018 US House elections, Rep. David Valadao was up by over 7% on election night and the AP and most major media outlets declared him the winner. Three weeks later, after counting the large volume of absentee ballots, his opponent TJ Cox pulled ahead by a few hundred votes and the AP issued a rare retraction and declared Cox the winner. (Valadao would have the last laugh though, as he won the seat back in 2020 even as Joe Biden was easily winning it at the presidential level).
  • Betsy Dirksen Londrigan was declared the winner of Illinois' 13th congressional district by CNN early on in election night. By the end of the night, they had to retract their projection after results showed it was still too close to call. Indeed, in the end, incumbent Rodney Davis narrowly held onto his seat.
  • In 2019, longtime Democratic-aligned Wisconsin Judge Shirley Abrahamson announced she would retire after her term's expiration in April. The Democratic base rallied around Lisa Neubauer, who was supported by a large network of state and national left-wing organizations. The Republican was Brian Hagedorn, a little-known judge who conservative organizations were barely putting any effort into. After losing the election in the 2018 Supreme Court race by 10 points and all of their key statewide races during the November midterms, Wisconsin Republicans were demoralized and even they expected Neubauer to cruise to victory. Even a large realtor group who endorsed Hagedorn gave up on him about a month before the election due to concerns over some controversial views of his. Hagedorn was being outspent by about 14-to-1. What happened? The conservative base unexpectedly showed up. Many were outraged that Neubauer's supporters decided to use what could be perceived as anti-Christian rhetoric to argue against Hagedorn during the campaignnote . Because of this, many decided to strike back against it and came out to support Hagedorn and drive him to a narrow victory.
  • In late 2019, California congresswoman Katie Hill resigned after sexually explicit photos of her were leaked on the internet by her ex-boyfriend, and a special election was set up to fill the remainder of her term. Democrats quickly rallied by Assemblywoman Christy Smith, whose seat in the California State Assembly made up over half of the congressional district's population. The party was confident that, with the election coinciding with the Democratic presidential primary that March, she would get over 50% of the vote in the all-party primary and win the election outright. Unfortunately, those plans were complicated when The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur jumped into the race, and come March 3, he and several scattered Democrats caused Smith to fail to crack 40% of the vote. She was sent into a May runoff with Republican Navy veteran Mike Garcia, who edged out Hill's predecessor Steve Knight to win the seat. What was once considered a slam-dunk for Smith turned into a highly competitive race, and with the COVID-19 crisis beginning shortly afterwards, turnout was expected to be very low. The bottom fell out for Smith when she made a joke about Garcia's military service that alienated several voters in the military heavy district. Democratic turnout in the runoff was extremely low, as most Democratic voters were Latinos who rarely show up to the poll outside of November elections, and Garcia not only won, but he did so by nearly 10 percent margin.
  • Virtually every prognosticator in 2018 expected Republican Rep. Steve Russell to easily hold onto his seat in Oklahoma's 5th congressional district—on average polls had him ahead by 13%. In the end, Kendra Horn, his Democratic challenger, tapped into anger at outgoing Republican Governor Mary Fallin's unpopular education policies, and a strong performance at the top of the ticket by gubernatorial nominee Drew Edmondson, to squeak out a 1-point win and becoming the first Democrat to represent the district since the 1970s.
    • Zig-zagged in the 2020 Republican primary to take on Horn. Heading into round 1, State Senator Stephanie Bice was seen as nearly certain to be the first place finisher, with a good shot of winning the primary outright without the need for a runoff. However, Bice got forced into a runoff with businesswoman Terry Neese, and even more embarrassingly, came in second place with only 25%. Going into the August runoff, Neese was now considered a favorite to beat Bice, due to large levels of outside support from conservative organizations. However, shortly before the runoff, several scandals sunk Neese's support, and Bice came back and won by a six-point margin. Because of Bice's win, national Republicans feel a lot more confident that they would win the seat back than they would have with Neese—-and indeed, they did.
  • Done twice in South Carolina's 1st congressional district, based in the suburbs of Charleston, in the 2018 cycle. The seat had been held by former governor Mark Sanford since 2013, after Republican Tim Scott was appointed to the U.S. Senate (Sanford actually held the seat before he was governor). However, Sanford's libertarian politics made him quite unpopular with mainstream Republicans. In a primary that went completely under the radar, he lost renomination for the seat to state representative Katie Arrington, a staunch conservative. Given the fact that Trump carried the district by 13 points, it seemed that Arrington was well on her way to Congress. However, she proved to be a little too far to the right for suburbanites to handle, and she narrowly lost her bid to Joe Cunningham, who became the first Democrat to win the district since the 1980s.
  • When Joe Biden first ran for the Senate in 1972 after only serving two years on the New Castle County Council, he won the Democratic nomination to face incumbent Republican Delaware Senator and former Governor J. Caleb Boggs because no other Democrat wanted to do so, believing they couldn't beat him. Biden had basically no funds, but in the closest Senate election that year, he won by a little more than 3,000 even as Richard Nixon carried the state by 20 percentage points, becoming the youngest senator in that Congress, and held the seat for a further 36 years, until he resigned to become vice president.
  • For Germany's 2021 federal election, the incumbent center-right CDU-CSU coalition party seemed poised to stay in power. Despite some setbacks like struggling to find a successor to the popular outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, for much of 2021, the party held double-digit poll lead over their biggest rival, the center-left SPD party. Furthermore, their outlook was emboldened by both declining SPD membership and recent election losses by leftist parties in Europe. However, the election resulted in the SPD winning the most seats while the CDU-CSU suffered their worst defeat since 1945. After the forming a coalition with the Greens and FDP, SPD leader Olaf Scholz became the new Chancellor and the CDU-CSU was relegated into an opposition block. While some attributed the SPD's win to the party's policies, several voters chose SPD because they liked Scholz respectable and stable personality whereas CDU-CSU leader Armin Laschet was seen as elitist and aloof especially after he was caught on camera laughing at flooded towns.
  • In 2022, Republican Joe Kent was expected to win Washington's 3rd congressional district with polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight giving him a 98% chance of winning. However, Kent was ultimately defeated by Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez by a 1.5 point margin, flipping a seat that Republicans previously held for 12 years. Many post-mortem reports, including one by The Atlantic, blamed Kent's loss on his extremist views, alignment with Donald Trump and peddling of electoral fraud conspiracies that drove voters to Perez. It didn't help that Republican voters ousted incumbent Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler in the jungle primary after she voted to impeach Trump following the 2021 Capitol Hill insurrection; given how Beutler was more moderate and won every election in the district since 2010, often by double-digit margins and even when outspent by Democrats, it's highly probable that she would've kept the district had she made it to the general election.
  • The 2023 Social Democratic Party of Austria leadership election erroneously had the party congress vote totals swapped around, meaning that conservative-leaning candidate Hans Peter Doskozil was erroneously declared the winner by 317 votes over his left-wing rival Andreas Babler's 280 votes, when it was in fact Babler who had 317 votes leading over Doskozil with 280. Two days after the election, Babler was then declared the chair once the error was discovered.

  • In many racing sports, from Formula 1 to motorcycles, it happened at least once to see a driver starting to celebrate his victory (or a good placement) after passing the finish line... only to realize that his opponents were all overtaking him at full speed, without slowing down, and nobody was celebrating outside the track: there was still one lap to go, but he mistakenly thought the race was just finished!
    • A notorious example occurred to Bjorn Wirdheim during the 2003 Formula 3000 season. Leading the Monaco race, he rounded the final corner and, thinking he'd already crossed the finish line, slowed down and swerved towards the pit straight to celebrate with his team. The finish line was actually much further along the straight than Wirhiem had realised, and Nicolas Kiesa roared past him to snatch the win. Wirdheim still won the championship, with a record points tally to boot, but the Monaco incident became the only thing he's known for.
  • At the end of the 2008 Brazil Grand Prix, final race of the season, Felipe Massa won the race to great emotion shown by the cameras from his box, where his family and the mechanics immediately started celebrating as his rival Lewis Hamilton was 6th in position and would have lost the championship (ending it with the same total points of Massa but two less wins). 39 seconds later, Hamilton passes Timo Glock precisely at the last turn before the finish line, getting that one point required to surpass Massa in the drivers' championship standing and become world champion. How Massa's father's face turned in front of the cameras from joy to dismay (as he was informed) is heartbreaking.
  • Going into Super Bowl XLII, every sports analyst worth their salt said the 2007 New England Patriots were going to beat the New York Giants (who they'd beaten 38-35 in the regular season) and make themselves the first perfect team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. The Patriots were 16-0 in the regular season, the first team in the history of the NFL to win every game of a 16-game season, and were being led by Tom Brady, already considered an excellent quarterback. The New York Giants, meanwhile, had limped into the playoffs at 10-6 as the first Wild Card team from the NFC, were being led by Eli Manning, who many thought wasn't as good as his older brother Peyton, and were noted to have several problems with their secondary. Many publications had already begun printing "19-0 Patriots" front pages before the game even started, since no one was giving the Giants a chance. Then the game was played, and the Giants pulled a Miracle Rally to win 17-14. Said front covers were then roundly mocked on sports websites, especially from Giants fans.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a few infamous moments of this during the playoffs. Going into the 2017 playoffs, several Steelers players were already talking about the upcoming rematch against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship before they had played the divisional round against the Jacksonville Jaguars that would determine who faced off against the Patriots. Jacksonville proceeded to stun Pittsburgh by winning 45-42. After the game, the Steelers were mocked for seemingly being so focused on New England that they forgot they had to beat Jacksonville first.
    • Then, in the 2020 playoffs, several Steelers players flat-out said they weren't worried about the Wild Card round against the Cleveland Browns, even though the Browns had beaten the Steelers just a week earlier in the final game of the regular season, with JuJu Smith-Schuster in particular shrugging them off as "nameless gray faces" and "the Browns is the Browns". The game went badly for Pittsburgh literally from the first snap, which flew over Ben Roethlisberger's head and was downed in the endzone for a Cleveland touchdown. Cleveland ultimately came away with a 48-37 victory, and "the Browns is the Browns" became a catchphrase for the team.
  • This happened in the final round of the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil:
    • Following emphatic wins over Sweden and Spain in the final round robin group of four, red-hot favourites Brazil merely had to avoid losing their final match against second-placed Uruguay to win the World Cup. An impromptu carnival was held in Rio de Janeiro, with revellers holding signs already proclaiming Brazil the champions, and some 200,000 people packed into the Maracana Stadium to watch the match. FIFA president Jules Rimet prepared a Portuguese-language speech for the trophy presentation, the Brazilian Football Confederation struck 22 gold medals for the players (at the time, individual players did not receive winner's medals from FIFA), and a celebratory song called "Brazil the Victors" was written to be performed after the win.
    • Then came the game itself... Friaça opened the scoring for Brazil just after half time, and the mostly Brazilian crowd went wild. Uruguay's Juan Alberto Schiaffino equalised twenty minutes later; the crowd spirit was dampened, but only temporarily as a draw still favoured Brazil. But then Alcides Ghiggia put Uruguay in front in the 79th minute, and the crowd went completely silent. Uruguay held on to win the match. Several Brazilian spectators either suffered heart attacks or jumped to their deaths from the top of the stadium, Rimet had to throw away his prepared speech and awkwardly hand over the trophy to Uruguayan captain Obdulio Varela with no ceremony, the winners' medals were melted down, and "Brazil the Victors" was never performed. The match is nicknamed the "Maracanazo", or "Maracanã Blow", in Latin America.note  Many people claim that the pressure all day long by politicians and passerbys regarding the presumed victory certainly helped the Brazilian squad not perform as expected against an equally strong squad.
  • Four years later, the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland was expected to be taken by the "Golden Team" of Hungary, who hadn't lost since 1949 - a total of 36 games before the Cup. They started by trouncing North Korea 9–0 and West Germany 8–3 in the group phase, followed by hard contested 4–2 wins over both teams from the above game - a violent quarterfinal with Brazil and an overtime semifinal with Uruguay – and then a rematch with West Germany in the decision. Whose coach Sepp Herberger showed he was deliberately holding back the squad in the group stage, as Hungary scored twice in 8 minutes, Germany scored in ten more, and another goal in the final minutes crowned the Germanic Efficiency over the seemingly unbeatable Magic Magyars.
  • Arena Football, 2005 playoffs: Chicago trails Colorado by 3 on the final play of the game. Colorado intercepts Chicago's pass, and the confetti flies... but there's a penalty on the play on Colorado, so crew have to clean up the confetti before Chicago kicks in a game tying-field goal. Colorado cleans up in overtime with a touchdown. Video.
  • During the 1985 World Series, the base of the trophy had allegedly been painted red for the heavily favored St. Louis Cardinals. It had to be repainted blue for Kansas City Royals, who won the series in seven games.
  • The 1986 World Series. Red Sox vs. Mets. Going into Game Six, the Red Sox were leading the series three games to two. The Red Sox pulled ahead, 5-3, in the top of the tenth inning, and after Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez flied out to left and center, respectively, it looked like they had it in the bag: the scoreboard at Shea Stadium briefly flashed "Congratulations, Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Champions", and TV announcers were remarking that Red Sox pitcher Bruce Hurst was about to be named Series MVP. And then, Gary Carter singled. Then pinch-hitter Kevin Mitchell also singled.note  Next up, Ray Knight singled on an 0-2 count, Carter ran home and Mitchell moved to third. Pitcher Calvin Schiraldi was pulled off the mound and replaced with Bob Stanley, who faced Mookie Wilson. Stanley gets worked to a 2-2 count because Wilson kept fouling off pitches, then throws a fastball so far inside it nearly beans Wilson and goes by the catcher to the backstop, allowing Knight move to second and Mitchell to score, tying the game. All of this was bad enough for the Red Sox fans, but what happened next is the event on which all the blame is pinned: Wilson then hit a slow ground ball to first base, which went through first baseman Bill Buckner's legs. Knight scored, the Mets won 6-5, and the series gets tied 3-3, which forced a Game 7 (which the Mets won), turned Buckner's name into a curse word among Red Sox fans, and gave fuel to the idea that the Red Sox had been cursed.
  • In the 2006 World Series, the Detroit Tigers were such heavy favorites over the St. Louis Cardinals, who had barely limped into the playoffs with only a slight winning record of 83-78 and defeated two heavily flawed teams (the San Diego Padres who had a very weak offense for a playoff team, and the New York Mets who were dealing with multiple injuries to important starting pitchers) to reach the World Series, that USA Today jokingly predicted that the Tigers would win the best-of-seven series in an impossible three games. The Cardinals easily won the series in five games.
  • On November 17, 1968 at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, the Oakland Raiders hosted the New York Jets. In the fourth quarter, the Jets had regained the lead from a 29-29 tie score with a field goal, resulting in a 32-29 lead with 1:01 minute left. The NBC executives were unsure if the game would finish by 7 p.m. EST, when Heidi was scheduled to begin. Viewers flooded the switchboards with calls, some asking that the game be shown to its conclusion, and others wondering if Heidi would start on time. The numerous phone calls prevented Don "Scotty" Connal and Dick Cline from getting in touch with each other. Just as Charlie Smith was returning the kickoff, the Eastern and Central time zone broadcasts of the game cut away to the opening minutes of Heidi, while Raiders QB Daryle Lamonica threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Smith for a 36-32 lead. As the Raiders kicked off to the Jets, Earl Christy fumbled the ball at the Jets' 12-yard line, followed by Preston Ridlehuber recovering the fumble and taking it into the end zone, giving the Oakland Raiders a 43-32 comeback victory.
  • The 1978 Miracle at the Meadowlands. The New York Giants were up 17-12 with less than two minutes left in the game, the Philadelphia Eagles were out of timeouts, and the Giants just picked off a pass from Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski; the only thing the Giants had to do was run out the clock. Giants fans began streaming for the exits in a good mood, Eagles coach Dick Vermeil had a disgusted look on his face as he turned his attention to the post-game press conference (the team as a whole hadn't played that well that game), and (perhaps most strikingly) the CBS broadcast was already starting to having their announcers read off their list of "we thank this guy, this guy, that guy..." and rolling credits over the telecast. Then Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik fumbles the attempted handoff to Larry Csonka and Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards picks up the fumble for a touchdown. Eagles win, 19-17.
  • The 2004 Copa América had Argentina scoring with three minutes left over Arch-Enemy Brazil, and the adversary's broadcast was already accepting the defeat. And then Adriano ties the game on injury time to force the penalties, and Brazil wins there.
  • The Brazilian volleyball team whisked away one of those to Russia, once for each gender, in a decisive match of the Olympic Games. In 2004, the women's team was 24-19 on the fourth set of the semifinals, meaning they were only one point away from their first final... only to let the Russians turn over and then win the tiebreaker (the Brazilian girls were so affected that they hardly performed in the bronze medal match). In 2012, the men's team had two chances to win the final 3-0. Yet the Russians, buyoed by a tactical change that led Dmitriy Muserskiy to score 31 points overall, won that set, and the next two to win the gold.
  • There's been more than one instance where fans of a home team who has fallen behind by a seemingly-insurmountable lead start leaving early in order to avoid get stuck in the inevitable post-game traffic jam in the parking lot, only to hear said team has come back and they try to get back into the stadium. Amusingly enough, they're forbidden from re-entering because of long-standing policies printed on tickets regarding re-entrance to a facility after some time cutoff (at least initially - in such extreme cases the building managers may waive that policy and allow fans to reenter if they can act fast enough in terms of crowd control). Three well-known cases:
    • The Comeback, the 1993 NFL Wild Card win-or-go-home playoff game with the Houston Oilers visiting the Buffalo Bills. The Oilers dominated the first half, with quarterback Warren Moon going 19-for-22 for 218 yards and 4 touchdowns (excellent quarterback stats for a whole game, never mind half of one) en route to a 28-3 lead at halftime; then less than two minutes into the third quarter Bills quarterback Frank Reich threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, putting the Oilers up 35-3 and prompting Houston's radio announcer to remark, "The lights are on here at Rich Stadium, they've been on since this morning, you could pretty much turn them out on the Bills right now." Between having their top two offensive stars sidelined by injurynote , how feebly the healthy Bills players were playing, and the chilly Western New York weather, the fans largely agreed, throwing invectives at Bills General Manager Bill Polian as they streamed out of the stadium en masse. Then the Bills finally came to life, going touchdown, onside-kick en route to a touchdown, quick defensive stop then touchdown, and intercepting Moon followed by a touchdown - in less than seven minutes of play 35-3 became 35-31. It took until late in the fourth quarter for the Bills to finally take the lead at 38-35, but by then the previously-pissed patrons had received word of the rally via radio and came back for The Comeback, climbing over the fences to get back to their seats in many cases while suddenly singing praises about the team within earshot of Bill Polian. Oh, and the Bills won 41-38 in overtime.
    • The 2000 Monday Night Miracle, the Miami Dolphins at the New York Jets. By the end of the 3rd quarter the Dolphins were up 30-7, Jets radio broadcaster Howard David stated, "And with a whole quarter to go, this game is over", and fans either began chanting "Let's go Yankees"/"Let's go Mets" (the game took place between Games 2 and 3 of the 2000 World Series between those two teams) or just left Giants Stadium early to beat traffic. Then the Jets scored 23 unanswered points to tie the game at 30 - the Dolphins scored another touchdown to go back up by seven, then the Jets scored again to tie it again at 37; fans who had left early began turning around and tried to get back into the stadium after hearing about the comeback on their car radio. The Jets won 40-37 in overtime.
    • Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs visting the Miami Heat with the Spurs up 3 games to 2 in the series. With 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Spurs up 94-89, fans began streaming out of American Airlines Arena while league officials began preparing the security tape for what seemed to be a Spurs championship. The Heat managed to tie the game and send it into overtime, at which point TV cameras outside the arena filmed fans trying to reenter after having left and being blocked by security from doing so. The Heat won the game 103-100 and eventually won the NBA championship two nights later.
  • The 2016 World Series. The Cleveland Indians had a commanding 3-1 lead over the Chicago Cubs after the first four games. One overenthusiastic Indians fan chose to tattoo himself with both the Indians and the Cleveland Cavaliers' logo with a caption proclaiming a 2016 victory for both of them. Then the Cubs won Game 5 at Wrigley Field, followed by Game 6 and 7 back in Cleveland to become the 2016 World Series Champions.
    • Ironically, the Cavaliers themselves were on the opposite side of this trope as they were losing 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals until they managed a come-from-behind championship win with 3 straight victories.
  • In Super Bowl LI, the Atlanta Falcons were up 28-3 against the New England Patriots with about two minutes left in the third quarter; at one point, the Falcons had a 99.8% chance of winning, according to ESPN analysts. Stores across Atlanta were already stocking the shelves with Falcons Super Bowl Champions merchandise. Cue the fourth quarter, in which the Patriots scored 25 unanswered points to force the game into overtime for the first time in Super Bowl history, as well as the second time that an NFL championship game went into overtime since the 1958 NFL Championship Game. The Patriots would end up scoring the game-winning touchdown on their first drive, defeating the Falcons 34-28.
  • During the second round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Puerto Rico managed to defeat the United States in a narrow 6-5 game during their undefeated run to the championship game. With them set to play the USA again, the Puerto Ricans already began preparing for a championship win with customized t-shirts, a booked flight back to the island, and a parade in San Juan. Team USA caught wind of this and the players were not happy. They proceeded to embarrass Puerto Rico with a 8-0 win that included USA starter Marcus Stroman, who incidentally faced jeers from PR fans and players for choosing to play for the USA instead of themnote , pitching a no-hitter until the seventh inning.
  • During game 3 of their second round series against the Boston Celtics in the 2018 NBA playoffs, the Philadelphia 76ers scored a buzzer-beater at the end of the fourth quarter. The problem? The refs had to check whether it was a 2-point shot (which would tie), or a 3-point shot (which would win the game), and some of the employees at Philadelphia's arena presumed it was the latter, so they ended up firing off several confetti cannons. It ended up being a two-point shot, resulting in a short delay before overtime for cleanup. Unfortunately, Boston ended up winning.
  • Any best-of-seven playoff series in which one team has won the first three games is generally considered an assumed win, because the team with the 3-0 lead almost always wins the series. Almost. As of June 2018, there have been only five instances in the North American major leagues when a team has come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a series (often by finishing the sweep); four of those have been in the NHL, and it has yet to happen in the NBA:
    • 1942 Stanley Cup Finals: The Detroit Red Wings became the first team in history to blow a 3-0 lead, losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs had a lead toward the end of Game 4 when the Wings objected to penalties assessed, culminating in Detroit head coach Jack Adams punching the referee and getting suspended from the remainder of the series. The Wings nearly returned the favor on the Leafs in 1945, but fell short in Game 7.
    • 1975 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals: The New York Islanders rebounded to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins, and then nearly repeated the feat in the Semifinals, forcing Game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers before losing to the defending (and eventual repeat) Cup champions.
    • 2004 American League Championship Series: the Boston Red Sox were dominated by the New York Yankees in the first three games, but after coming back to win Games 4 and 5 in extra innings and winning Game 6 on pitcher Curt Schilling's torn tendon (the "Bloody Sock Game"), the Sox blew the Yankees out in Game 7, and then went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, putting an end to the Curse of the Bambino.
    • 2010 Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Semifinals: The Flyers came back on the Boston Bruins to win the series, and even came back from a 3-0 deficit within Game 7 by a final score of 4-3. Philadelphia would reach the Finals, only to lose to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
    • 2014 Stanley Cup Western Conference Quarterfinals: The Los Angeles Kings came back on the San Jose Sharks to advance out of the first round, and went on to win their second Cup in three years.
  • Inverted by the 2017-18 Philadelphia Eagles. After starting QB and likely NFL MVP Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending injury in Week 14, the team's chances of championship contention looked grim at best. Confidence decreased even further when the Eagles nearly lost to the New York Giants and the Oakland Raiders (two non-contending teams) and got shut out by the Dallas Cowboys (another non-contending team). This turn of events earned the '17 Eagles the infamous distinction of being the first #1 seed in NFL history not to be favored in their opening postseason game. The rest was history, as they not only won that game against the Atlanta Falcons, but also went on to defeat the Minnesota Vikings and the New England Patriots in route to their first-ever Super Bowl championship.
  • A major joke going into the 2019 NBA playoffs was "which team will be the one to lose to the Golden State Warriors?" Given the Warriors had been in the last four Finals with three of them victories made them the obvious favorites. Most assumed the only team that had a chance for an upset was the Milwaukee Bucks only for them to lose the Eastern Conference finals to the Toronto Raptors. Thus, many openly predicted a Warriors sweep in the Finals. Instead, the Raptors defeated the Warriors in six games to win their first NBA title.
  • WWE:
    • As they were announcing the new #1 contender for the WWE Championship, John Cena stood up, assuming he won (justified as he had by far won the fan poll), only for Kurt Angle to say "John... Bradshaw Layfield!"
    • Another time a feud started between Hulk Hogan and Sid Justice because Hogan was named #1 contender for Ric Flair's title, in a press conference where Justice stood up as the announcement was being made.
  • At the 2012 Olympics, reigning women's vault world champion McKayla Maroney was expected to win the women's vault title easily, an expectation that was only solidified after Maroney qualified into the vault final in first place by nearly half a point (a significant margin in gymnastics) and then hit an epic vault in the team final two days later. During the vault final, Maroney fell on her second vault and ended up finishing in silver medal position. Her reaction to this turn of events (which probably wouldn't have been so unpleasant for her if not for the extent to which everyone expected her to win gold) became legendary.
  • 9 years later in gymnastics, the Tokyo Olympics had Simone Biles hyped up to be the name of the Games and bound to take the competition by storm, given she won 4 golds in the previous Olympics and became a dominant force in the world championships. Then during the team contest, she starts commiting mistakes and refusing to do more elaborate maneuvers, later specifying she was not feeling well and downright afraid of getting injured. After getting the team silver, Biles pulled out of other contests until the balance beam in the final day, where she got the bronze.
  • At the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, Lindsey Jacobellis looked like she was on the cusp of winning a gold medal in the snowboard cross competition. Her competitors had stumbled, and she was sitting on a huge lead when she decided to show off with a celebratory method grab on a jump near the finish line, then landed on the side of her board and fell, allowing Switzerland's Tanja Frieden to whisk past her and take gold. Jacobellis managed to redeem herself 16 years later when she finally won gold in 2022.
  • The 2023 AFC Championship Game saw the Kansas City Chiefs host the defending Cincinnati Bengals. With the Bengals on a bit of a win streak against the Chiefs and having just made Bison meat out of the Buffalo Bills during the Divisional Round, they would head to Arrowhead Stadium...oh, sorry, "Burrowhead" Stadium with quite a bit of confidence. To the extent that they had Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval issue a proclamation that, among other things, said Joe Burrow was Patrick Mahomes' father. This trash talking, however, would be all for naught as the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs would defeat the Bengals 23-20.
  • During the first Monday Night Football game of the 2023 season between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, Jack’s American Pub in Milwaukee, Wisconsin ran a promotion where all the bar patrons would drink for free if the Jets, who had acquired Aaron Rodgers from the Green Bay Packers, lost the game. Rodgers was forced to leave the game with an Achilles injury early in the first quarter, leading to several customers racking up large tabs on the assumption the Jets would lose with the star QB out of the game. Much to their shock, backup QB Zach Wilson managed to lead the Jets to a comeback 22-16 overtime victory and they were forced to pay for their inflated tabs.

  • An apocryphal Real Life story: After an 1883 chess tournament, a toast was proposed "to the best player in the world." Both Wilhelm Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort stood up to thank the toastmaster. In 1886, Steinitz defeated Zukertort to become the first World Champion.
  • During the 1933 Academy Awards, both Frank Capra and Frank Lloyd were up for the award for Best Director (Capra for Lady for a Day, Lloyd for Calvacade). When presenter Will Rogers said, "Come up and get it, Frank", both Lloyd and Capra went up to accept the Oscar. Much to Capra's chagrin, Lloyd was the real winner. (The Oscar, see above, may be a reference to this.)
  • Entering the 1997 Oscar ceremony, everyone took it for granted Lauren Bacall would win Best Supporting Actress. It wasn't that her role in The Mirror Has Two Faces was that notable but rather in recognition of her long career as a Hollywood star. Some papers even noted she was a lock in their "choose the Oscars" contests. Thus, it was a massive shock when Juliette Binoche had her name called for The English Patient. While Bacall seemed calm, the other three nominees were open-mouthed and wide-eyed. Binoche herself looked more shocked than anyone as she headed to the stage. She noted she hadn't even bothered preparing anything as she was as convinced as anyone else Bacall would win this.
  • The 2006 Country Music Awards saw Faith Hill and Carrie Underwood both nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year. As the nominations were being announced, a camera was trained on all five finalists, including Hill and Underwood. Then, as Underwood was announced the winner, Hill smiled and raised her arms, then apparently screamed "What?" and stormed away. All of this was caught on live television just before the nominee camera shots were pulled away. Faith Hill and her management insisted the act was a joke, but left many unconvinced. Her career took a nosedive not long after.
  • Both Susan Flannery (from The Bold & The Beautiful and Susan Lucci (from All My Children) were nominated for the Best Actress Daytime Emmy in one ceremony. When the winner was announced, the presenters' voices were garbled and the band began playing All My Children's theme. With numerous people pointing at her, Susan Lucci assumed she was the winner and began to walk on stage. Problem is, it was FLANNERY who had won. Luckily, Lucci was able to back off the stage before appearing on-camera. And even luckier, she had finally won her elusive Emmy several years prior, otherwise the incident would have been much more embarrassing for all involved.
  • Australia's Next Top Model had a related incident when they actually announced the wrong person as the winner, and she'd already done her acceptance speech when the host revealed that in fact, the other finalist had won.
  • Inverted in an Airdrie, Alberta, Canada high school. A student, convinced he would not win a cash award for attendance, declined to attend the draw and stayed in class instead. Then the teacher got a call over the school phone network, and sent the student down to the stadium—the student had won a $1,000 draw.
  • Heading into the 2015 awards season, Warner Bros. was so confident in The LEGO Movie's front-runner status that a day before the Oscar nominations were announced, it released an internet banner celebrating the movie's assumed best animated film nomination. Warner wasn't alone - most Oscar prognosticators had the film as the favorite to win. When the nominations were announced the next morning, The Lego Movie was not among them.
  • The 2015 Miss Universe Pageant. At the end of the pageant host Steve Harvey accidentally labeled Ariadna Gutiérrez, Miss Columbia as the winner of the pageant. The real winner was Pia Wurtzbach, Miss Philippines. The mistake was corrected but not before Steve Harvey had to apologize for his mistake, and Gutiérrez was de-crowned on camera, all while the credits were rolling.
  • La La Land being erroneously declared Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards was this on two fronts.
    • The film was the heavy favorite to win, with Moonlight (2016) a distant second. Nearly all forecasts predicted La La Land would win, and most betting sites placed its odds of winning at over 80%. Vox stated, "If La La Land loses Best Picture, it will be the biggest Oscars upset ever." FiveThirtyEight placed its odd of winning at 82% and noted that with the Best Picture category's rank-choice voting system, "The Oscars are already rigged in favor of movies like La La Land."
    • Earlier in the ceremony, Damien Chazelle won the Best Director award for La La Land, which statistically predicts the Best Picture winner 71% of the time. Best Picture presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the winner as La La Land to the surprise of few, and the cast and crew had congregated on the stage and two of the producers had finished their acceptance speeches when it was discovered Beatty and Dunaway had mistakenly been given the envelope for Best Actress, which Emma Stone had won for La La Land, and Moonlight had in fact won Best Picture. The cast and crew of La La Land then had to clear off the stage as the producers of Moonlight accepted the award to a stunned audience.
  • Two out of the 2019 Academy Awards:
    • Roughly 99 percent of predictions chose Glenn Close as the lock for Best Actress. Her role in The Wife had already earned her a Golden Globe, a Critic's Choice award and the Screen Actors Guild award which almost always predicted the Oscar winner. Add in that it was Close's seventh nomination without any wins and her coronation appeared assured. Instead, in a stunning upset, the prize was claimed by Olivia Colman for The Favourite. Granted, Colman had also won a Globe and Critic's Choice along with a BAFTA but most were rocked that Close's supposed surefire victory didn't happen.
    • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won the Best Animated Film award, which doesn't seem like too big a deal... until shortly after, where images started circulating from stores where it turned out Disney had pre-emptively printed stickers to promote Ralph Breaks the Internet as the winner of the award, and sold them to stores to use in their shelves—and most stores had no choice but to either throw out the stickers, or to just display them anyways (which some stores did). Whoops. This one was baffling to many given that Spider-Verse was clearly the heavy favorite to win, having already earned several precursor awards like the Golden Globe so Disney thinking Ralph was a sure winner seemed off.
  • Similarly, in September 2019, some bookshops displayed The Testaments with stickers saying "Winner: The Booker Prize 2019". With a month to go before the actual announcement, the Booker committee had to issue a statement saying it had not already made its decision. As it turned out, the stickers were right. (Well, first ever joint win, with Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo.)
  • At the 2021 Academy Awards, the late Chadwick Boseman was the heavy favorite to win a posthumous Best Actor Oscar for his final role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, having succumbed to colon cancer eight months earlier. The producers bucked decades of tradition by presenting the Best Actor category last, hoping to end the show on an emotional moment, and had Boseman's widow in attendance ready to give a speech. The winner? Anthony Hopkins for The Father. To make things more awkward, Hopkins wasn't even in attendance- being 83 years old, he didn't want to travel such a distance during the COVID-19 pandemic and he stated that the producers refused to let him attend the event remotely via Zoom, a fact later confirmed by producer Steven Soderbergh. As a result, presenter Joaquin Phoenix simply said he was accepting it on Hopkins' behalf and, rather than the emotional moment the producers were expecting, the show ended in an incredibly abrupt fashion.note  When Hopkins later gave an acceptance speech and paid a tribute to Boseman, he admitted that even he didn't expect himself to win.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): And The Winner Is


Spongebob Gets Promoted

Spongebob prematurely celebrates his promotion to manager... even though it was actually Squidward who won.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (21 votes)

Example of:

Main / AssumedWin

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