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Down to the Last Play

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"One minute left, and the scores are tied. Why does that always happen?"
Frank Shackleford, Chilly Beach

Almost invariably, sports games in fiction are extremely close-scored, go down to the wire, and are decided by a crucial, unbelievable, Million to One Chance play at the last second. Usually, the game in which this occurs is the grand finale; the championship or playoff game pitting the ragtag underdogs against the seemingly unbeatable Opposing Sports Team.

  • Every American football game ends with either a Hail Mary pass, or some bizarre, convoluted offensive play that the team thought of back in practice. Or, if the protagonist team is in the lead (which almost never happens because people like comeback stories), a goal-line stand. Plus, the score usually puts one team up by 4-6 points, so there's no way to hope for a last-second winning field goal (worth only three points). The likely reason for this is not because it isn't dramatic,note  but because it would put the game in the hands of the Kickernote  who isn't usually the Protagonist.
  • Every baseball game ends with either (a.) a dramatic walk-off home run, (b.) a clutch strikeout or incredible defensive play while the tying and/or winning runs are on base, or (c.) a super-close play at home plate. Full counts are terribly common. And the home team's always trailing in the bottom of the ninth.note 
  • Every ice hockey game ends with The Hero getting a breakaway and going one-on-one against the goalie—or, of course, a shootout, which is a set of forced one-player-versus-goalie sequences.
  • Every basketball game ends with a desperate buzzer-beater (a shot released before the game timer ends but which doesn't go in the basket until after it ends; considered legal in basketball). Often from across the court.
    • Alternately, having to dunk on The Rival / the nastiest player from the other team.
  • Every race ends with a (sometimes literal) photo finish.
  • Every golf tournament comes down to making a long putt, or to getting out from a trap or some other nasty place.
  • Every association football match ends with a spectacular last-minute goal, usually from a free kick. Or sometimes a last-minute penalty, or a penalty shootout.
  • Every bowling game comes down to either rolling a strike or making an extremely tough split to pick up a spare.
  • Every poker game comes down to a high-ranking hand being beaten by an even higher-ranking hand.
  • Every boxing match ends with a knockout, usually after the scrappy underdog has taken a beating that would certainly put him behind on points, and been knocked to the mat the maximum number of times possible without losing by TKO.
  • A sudden-death overtime, in which any play that results in a score is by definition the last play. This can actually be a two-fer, as there have been incidents where the underdog team has scored the tying point needed to take it to overtime in the last play as well.
  • And so on. Whatever the case, slow motion during the last play is expected.

Of course, this is not to say that the hero team will necessarily be successful and win the game in this final play. It's become a trope itself to have the final shot miss, the closing field goal go wide right, or that last deep fly ball to die at the warning track in order to present a Downer Ending and teach An Aesop that you can't always win and it's okay to lose sometimes. Often such loss is non-standard. For an example, scoring your own goal or face planting right before the finish line. (And also note that it doesn't make the example an aversion or subversion of this trope— the game is still decided on the final play, even if not in the protagonists' favor.) In Real Life examples this is even more prominent; close games that come Down to the Last Play are often contested by two evenly-matched teams, both of which are deserving of the win, and thus there isn't a clear protagonist if one is not in either team's fanbase.

If the hero has gotten to the finale via help of a supernatural power or device, expect this power to be taken away. However, even without this power, the win is guaranteed.

The narrative reason this happens is because it's the most exciting way for a game to go (in theory). There are very few circumstances in which it is interesting to see a routine pop fly with a four run lead or a second string quarterback sit on the ball for three downs.

Often preceded by the Miracle Rally, and the one player who is involved in the dramatic final play is often the one underdog player who finally gets the chance to prove himself.

A Super-Trope to Who Needs Overtime?note  Contrast with Curb-Stomp Battle.

See Just in Time for the non-sport variation of this trope. In politics, this trope is called Decided by One Vote. See also Underdogs Never Lose and Misfit Mobilization Moment. When a game itself is structured so that almost every match comes Down to the Last Play, the system enabling this is a Golden Snitch. Very distantly related to Critical Existence Failure, which is about video games where only the last hit point counts as far as staying alive or uninjured.

In Real Life this is much rarer than in fiction, but it does happen.

As this is an Ending Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Chapter 58 of the Ah! My Goddess manga, Megumi's four-member softball club forms a team with Keiichi, Belldandy, Urd, Skuld, and Sora to play against N.I.T.'s baseball team, composed entirely of Jerkasses. During the bottom of the ninth, Megumi's team is ahead by one run when it looks like it's going to be a Downer Ending when the opposing team scores two runs in the ninth inning, but the first runner failed to actually touch home plate, meaning he's out, and Megumi's softball club wins by one run.
  • Area no Kishi: Young football star Aizawa Suguru starts off the opening chapter by making what the announcers describe as a "magical pass" in the final moments of an international youth football game against Brazil. His teammates shot is easily blocked by the Brazilian goal-keeper, however since the deflected ball just so happens to land at Suguru's feet, he is able to make the last second shot that ends the game in a tie between Japan and the reigning champions.
  • Happens repeatedly in the Battle Athletes TV Series.
  • Played with in Dragon Ball. Goku's performance in the final round of each Budokai Tournament is always this case, except that it's his opponents who barely win. Goku wins only once in the final saga before Z.
  • Parodied in Excel♡Saga with one of the sports show episodes. Excel's team loses by a ludicrously huge margin (several million runs) in the last inning. Apparently the Downer Ending version of this trope is popular in Japan.
  • Eyeshield 21 does this a number of times, such as with Sena's first game against Koigahama and most of the Devil Bats' games during the Fall Tournament. It often doesn't end up so fine and dandy though.
  • Every. Single. Lacrosse match in Futari wa Pretty Cure is won by Nagisa scoring at the last second. Every. One. This is not an exaggeration. And there are about 6-7 across two seasons. Originality is not the writers' friend when it comes to Lacrosse games, it seems.
  • Future GPX Cyber Formula:
    • In EP 3, Hayato took third place at the qualifying round of the Fujioka Grand Prix by 0.002 seconds by a photo-finish line.
    • Episode 26 is even more blunt. His Super Asurada is having a problem, yet he beats Shinjyo out of determination in the last stretch in the English GP. In fact, Hayato is always seems to be this case up until SAGA Arc.
  • In Girls und Panzer, both the practise match against St Gloriana's at the beginning of the series and the final match against Kuromorimine come down to a last shot between Team Anglerfish and the opponent's flag tank. It's a loss against St Gloriana: the low-velocity howitzer on the Panzer IV ausf D doesn't have the penetration needed to get through the Churchill's thick armor and they're taken out by a direct hit from its 75mm gun. They defeat Kuromorimine, however, when the Tiger only manages a grazing hit against Anglerfish's upgraded Panzer IV ausf H that deflects off the side of the turret and their improved 7.5cm KwK 40 cannon easily defeats the Tiger's rear armor.
    • In Der Film, the University team's commanders claim that the exhibition match between them and Oarai and their friends from the other schools will be an easy victory, but by the time of the final showdown, of the sixty machines that joined the match, only five remain. And in the end, only one is still standing: Maho's Tiger I.
  • Downplayed in Hidamari Sketch. Arts A's victory in the medley brought them victory... over Arts B. School-wise, they're still second last.
  • Imaizumin-chi wa Douyara Gal no Tamariba ni Natteru Rashii: ~DEEP~: Due to Yukina being out of practice and everyone else outside Reina not knowing how to play, the "Gals" first-years won against "Raio" third-years by a small margin.
  • Inazuma Eleven plays this straight in most of the matches, except the second season/game, in which The Worf Effect takes places to show how badass the bad guys are when they debut.
  • Kinnikuman wins so many matches in this fashion that he's been nicknamed the "Miraculous Comeback Fighter."
  • Kuroko's Basketball does this a few times, most notably during the Winter Cup and the GoM's match with Jabberwock.
  • In one episode of Lucky Star, there's a relay race in which Miyuki is the final leg runner for her team (it wouldn't do to have a main character somewhere in the middle), and the race is of course decided by a photo finish: her larger-than-average chest breaks the ribbon before the other runner crosses, granting her team the victory.
  • Very common in Pokémon: The Series. Trainers can use anywhere from one to six Pokémon to battle each other, but matches will almost always end with a one-on-one fight. Adding a layer to that, many of those final one-on-one fights will end with both combatants being so exhausted that whoever can land the next successful attack will win. The last play of the last play. There do exist exceptions in the show, but those battles are often depicted to be completely one-sided that it's not even much of a fight to begin with.
  • Used at least twice in The Prince of Tennis, with Ryoma having to play an extra match when one of the normal games is declared a draw or forfeited by both teams. In the Hyotei arc, he plays Hiyoshi after Kawamura and Kabaji have to draw since they're both too injured to continue and both teams. In the anime-only American arc, Sengoku and Bobby Marx pull something similar and Akaya Kirihara is hurt during his game with Kevin Smith, so it's up to Ryoma to finish the last one and his feud with Kevin.
  • PuraOre! ~Pride of Orange~ starts with Yu scoring the World Cup of Hockey winner in the last second of regulation time, giving Team Japan the victory over Team Canada. It ends with Manaka poking in the final goal of the All-Japan Championship B ice hockey tournament in the last second of regulation time, giving the Dream Monkeys the victory over Snow White.
  • Almost all the matches shown in the anime version of Ro-Kyu-Bu! comes down to this.
    • The Girls vs. Guys match was won by the girls through a game-winning shot from Maho via an unexpected assist from Tomoka.
    • Hinata made a game-winner against Class D.
    • The match against Suzuridani was supposed to be a come-from-behind victory for Keishin, if only Saki did not miss the game-winning shot.
    • In their rematch in the prefectural tournament, however, she made the game-tying shot to send it to overtime. Tomoka almost won it for Keishin this time, but only if she made the game-winning shot in time.
  • In Silver Spoon, the Big Game that will decide whether the Yezo High baseball team goes on to the finals comes down to this. Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, our heroes are ahead by one and pitching, and talented freshman Komaba is on the pitcher's mound versus the local champion's best batter. Heartbreakingly, the more experienced batter hits Komaba's pitch, winning the game for the champs.
  • The Rugball arc of Space Adventure Cobra ends with Cobra at bat, down by three points with bases loaded and time running out. He strikes the "Homerun pose", pointing his bat over the lights and promising to knock the 5kg (~11lb) ball out of the park. He makes the shot, though he'd swapped the regulation ball with a hollow replica containing evidence the Galaxy Patrol had sent him to acquire. His contact retrieves it in the parking lot.
  • Subverted in a wildly over-the-top fashion in Sonic X. The speed-obsessed character Sam Speed had demanded a rematch against the titular hedgehog, who had humiliated him at the start of the series. Sam has procured an experimental rocket-jet-car-thing from somewhere, and the race is on! It comes down to a photo finish... until playback reveals that Sonic had reached the finish line WELL ahead of his opponent, hopped over it so as not to break the tape, mugged for the camera briefly, then run back to resume the race for the 'photo finish'.
  • This almost always happens in every duel in every Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise, with the opponents getting in the lead by having the more favorable card/field presence first and cornering the protagonist, setting things up for the latter to win at the last possible moment. Often results in accusations of Ass Pull on the part of the protagonist.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Happens in "The Baseball Game," thanks to the opposing team's Epic Fail. Mickey Cleary, the Edgartown Heath Hens' slugging designated hitter and the team's leader in home runs and runs batted in for the year, comes to the plate in the last of the ninth inning with two runners aboard and a chance to win the game and the Single-A World Series. He ends the game by hitting into a triple play to Bolt, who is playing second base despite lacking a glove and the ability to throw a baseball properly.
  • The Moonstone Cup: In the Cup's finals, Amarok and Twilight end up collapsing at the same time, too battered and drained to continue fighting, but Twilight has just enough magic left to throw some dirt at Amarok's face, winning the match.
  • Reality Is Fluid: Eleya is watching a springballnote  quarter-final match that goes down to the wire because the referee screwed up. It ends in a sudden-death tiebreaker, which her guy wins.

    Film — Animated 
  • Subverted in Cars. The race at the start of the film results in a three-way tie. However, in the tiebreaker race, Lightning McQueen is well ahead of the competition as he approaches the finish line but stops short to go help the King after he crashes, forfeiting the win.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Dunk for Future, it looks like Team Tiger is going to win at first, but then it's demanded that the clock be reset, as it wasn't stopped when someone made the shot. This gives Team Defenders only half a second to land another basket... and they manage to do it, giving them two extra points - just enough to avoid being a point lower than or tying with Team Tiger.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, the backstory of Ray Finkle, the primary villain, involves the disastrous loss of that year's Super Bowl by one point due to Finkle missing the 26-yard field goal that would have won the game for the Miami Dolphins. Finkle lost his mind as a result and was committed to a mental hospital, and blames the whole thing on Dan Marino, who, according to Finkle, didn't hold the ball "laces out" like he was supposed to. His vendetta against Marino and the Dolphins would lead to the plot of the movie.
  • In The Air Up There, the score for the basketball game is 45 to 46 until Saleh scores the winning shot seconds before time runs out.
  • In Angels in the Outfield, Mel Clark has pitched an entire game, and his last batter is the other team's heavy hitter. With two outs, and a foul ball that was nearly a home run, it comes down to one last pitch. The batter hits a line drive up the middle, but Mel manages to make a diving catch for the final out, the win, and the pennant for the Angels. And he did it all with no angel help whatsoever.
  • In Any Given Sunday, Quarterback Willie Beaman, wins the crucial playoff game by diving into the Endzone during the final play of the game.
  • In Back to the Future Part II, this is how Old Biff proves to Past Biff that "Gray's Sports Almanac" will help him become rich by betting on the winner until the year 2000. Specifically, Old Biff tunes into the UCLA - Washington game, and bets UCLA will win. When the commentator states that its doubtful UCLA will win after trailing Washington 16-17 with less than a minute left on the clock, Past Biff tells his older self that he was wrong. Old Biff turns up the radio, and the commentator announces that UCLA made a last second field goal, winning the game 19-17. (This game with this score actually happened in Real Life, though the radio broadcast in the movie could not be authentic as the real field goal was made with 18 seconds to play.)
  • The Bad News Bears was the first film to have the protagonist team NOT win.
  • In The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, the game comes down to the last runner trying to stretch a lucky hit and a fielding error into an inside-the-park home run. He slides into home plate just as the catcher tags him with the ball. It took a few suspenseful seconds for the home plate umpire to call it.
  • The championship match at the climax of Bend It Like Beckham comes down to a 1-1 tie, broken by Jess's penalty kick with mere seconds left on the clock. And just to add even more drama, she had missed a goal in the same situation earlier in the film.
  • Beautifully averted in Blood Of Heroes when the climactic three-period game is decided in the middle of the second inning.
  • In Caddyshack, Danny's final putt decides both a substantial bet and his own prospects for the future. He technically comes just short, but then the groundkeeper starts the latest phase of his insane efforts to kill a gopher on the course - by setting off bombs in the gopher tunnels. The explosions shake the course sufficiently to make the ball start rolling again and land in the hole.
  • Cool Runnings, based on the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team, uses the trope, though not in the way the viewer expects. The team has a chance for a medal, but crashes in their final run. The inspiration is there when they carry their bobsled across the finish line to finish the race.
  • In Crackerjack, Stan wins the bowls tournament with the last bowl of the match. However, because he collapsed after bowling it and was unconscious before the bowl came to rest, Bernie Fowler has it declared invalid. The officials decide to allow the next bowler in sequence to make the shot, and that happens to be Jack, who decides to bowl his infamous 'flipper'...
  • In Didier, the team needs one more point to win against the PSG. Of course, Didier marks. After turning back into a dog.
  • In Escape from L.A., Cuervo Jones forces Snake Plissken to play a deadly game of solitaire basketball for the amusement of him and the crowd.
    Cuervo Jones: "Two hoops, full court, ten-second shot clock. Miss a shot, you get shot. Shot clock buzzer goes off before you shoot, you get shot. Two points for a basket, no three-point bullshit. All you gotta do is get ten points. That's it." *dramatic pause* "By the way, nobody's ever walked off that court alive. Nobody."
    • Snake does indeed win, by way of making a lay-up, a jump shot from free throw distance, a jump shot from three-point distance, a half-court shot, and a full-court shot. After a few seconds of stunned silence, Cuervo prepares to kill Snake anyway, but Snake is saved when an earthquake happens, giving him the opportunity to escape the caged basketball court, and then the stadium itself. For bonus points, Kurt Russell actually made all those shots (including the full-court shot) during filming, although the number of takes it required is unknown.
  • The Fencer: In the finals of the fencing tournament, the score is tied, the Moscow team has priority (meaning they win if it's a tie), and the team's best fencer is injured. Little Marta is their last hope. She manages to score a touch with a second to spare, winning the whole tournament.
  • Harold Lloyd silent film The Freshman features Harold picking up a loose football and running it all the way down the field for a game-winning touchdown as time expires.
  • Friday Night Lights: The quarterback for the Permian Panthers, Mike Winchell, is stopped one yard short of the end zone, and the team loses. The ending sequence is played in slow motion with members of the Panthers having a Heroic BSoD, as they can't believe they just lost. It also subverts Underdogs Never Lose, since the team had to jump through several hoops just to make it to the title game.note 
  • Happy Gilmore, because of the play it as it lies rule, Happy is forced to putt for a victory with a collapsed TV Tower fallen on the green. Refusing to putt around it to take the tie and play for the tiebreaker, Happy instead plays it through the tower like it's a putt-putt course, and sinks the winning putt to win the Tournament, and more importantly, to beat Shooter McGavin and win his grandmother's house back.
  • Happens in the opening game of High School Musical 3: Senior Year, where with 16 minutes to go the Wildcats are losing horribly, but with upbeat inspirational music in their ears manages to even the score, and manages to score a basket just as the clock ticks from 1 to 0.
  • The movie Hoosiers is based off the real story of tiny Milan's victory over giant Muncie Central. The game was won by a shot at the last second.
  • In the 2006 film Inspired by… Vince Papale, Invincible, the movie ends with the first home game of the Philadelphia Eagles — one which they win without going into overtime because Papale calls an audible and then forces a fumble on the resulting punt, which he picks up and runs in for a touchdown.
  • A League of Their Own, where the comeback comes from the Opposing Sports Team, with Kit Keller getting the big hit and then plowing over her sister to score the winning run.
  • In the Remake of The Longest Yard, the Cons manage to score on a last second trick play after mounting a miracle comeback to put them one point behind the guards. They have the choice of either kicking the extra point to send the game into overtime, or to go for two and the win. They choose the latter, setting up another trick play that results in them scoring and winning the game.
  • Major League movies:
    • In Major League, the final play in the Big Game comes with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but is otherwise a unique twist. The beat-up, has-been catcher "calls his shot" to the bleachers in order to draw the infield out, and then bunts for a base hit, allowing the winning run to score from second. Also, if this play had failed, they would have gone to extra innings rather than losing, as the game was tied.
    • Major League 2, however, plays the trope traditionally. With his team clinging to a one-run lead, in a move that would be unheard of in real baseball, Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn intentionally walks the guy he's pitted against, which results in the bases being loaded, in order to set up a confrontation with Parkman, the opposing team's big power hitter and the movie's central antagonist. Vaughn, of course, strikes Parkman out and wins the game.note 
    • Major League Back to the Minors ends on a home run by the big-hitting prospect, despite the fact that there were no outs in the game and it was an exhibition.
  • Steve McQueen's Le Mans ends with the 24 hour race as a three car shootout on the last lap, and that is after the previous lead car retires on the penultimate lap. This was nearly Truth in Television though since the movie was made in 1970 and the 1969 race was a two car last lap shootout (see Real Life examples below).
  • The Mighty Ducks series of movies always ended in some dramatic fashion, though never in overtime. The first movie ended on a penalty shot, the second in shootouts; the third movie again used the trope by having a scoreless tie all the way to the last seconds of the third period, and the Ducks being content with a tie against the varsity team. Then, a brilliant defensive play allows the Ducks a goal-scoring opportunity—from Goldberg, who had been the goalie in the previous two movies and was still a mostly defensive player.
  • Parodied in the obscure 1989 B-horror-movie/teen sex comedy Monster High 1989 (no relation to the toy line from The New '10s). Not only does the fate of the world come down to a basketball game, and not only does the outcome of that game come down to one final free-throw, but that free throw spends a ridiculous amount of time bouncing around before settling perfectly on the rim. The world is saved when one of the protagonists gets the bright idea to blow on it, tipping it into the basket and saving the world.
  • Mr. 3000 and Mr. Baseball not only both have "Mr." in their title, but both also end on a game-winning run scored by a bunt. Both bunts also prevent the titular character from making it into the record books (it leaves Bernie Mac stranded on 2,999 hits in the former, and it breaks Tom Selleck's home-run streak in the latter).
  • Mystery, Alaska; with seconds on the clock, the underdog hockey team facing off against the New York Rangers needs a single goal to tie and therefore take the match into overtime. In agonizing slow motion, their captain makes a buzzer-beating shot... that strikes off the goalpost, producing the loud, piercing clink that is one of most heartbreaking sounds in sport.
  • The Natural with his team, the New York Knights, down one run, down to his last strike with two outs, and manager "Pops" Warner share of ownership in the team at stake, Roy Hobbs hits a pennant winning homerun in his last ever at bat.
  • Necessary Roughness pulled the same thing in the Texas game, scoring with a gimmick play to get within one as time expires, then going for two with a fake kick, opting to go for broke.
  • In North Dallas Forty, the professional (US) football team of the main characters was predicted to win their championship game and move on to the Super Bowl, but were down by a touchdown near the end of the game. They scored the touchdown, and only needed the extra point to tie and move into overtime. Unfortunately, they fumbled the snap and didn't make the extra point, and so lost the game to the underdog.
  • In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, President Ford is watching his old college team play a game that has come to this when Dreyfus hijacks the airwaves and makes his demands. By the time broadcasting is restored, the game is over, and the President ignores the fact that a madman just blackmailed the world to demand that someone tell him who won the game.
  • Downer Ending example: In the Pete Maravich biopic The Pistol, Maravich makes an apparent buzzer beating shot and starts celebrating... before realizing that the shot came a split second too late.
  • In Remember the Titans, the Titans overcame a 7-3 deficit by using a trick play (ironic in that, before the season began, Coach Boon looked down his nose at trick plays, as it were) for a 75-yard touchdown run in the final seconds of the game to win the state championship. Averted by the real-life 1971 T.C. Williams Titans; in the championship game, the opposing team was not only shut out, but ended up with negative rushing yardage.
  • The Rocky series often has the boxing matches go down to the final round — and possibly by decision. Averted in Rocky III, when the final fight ends in only three rounds.
  • At the end of Rookie of the Year, Henry loses his pitching speed and has to strike out the last three batters of the Mets without it. He does so, getting revenge on their slugger Heddo for scoring a home run off him at the start of his career, allowing the Cubs to advance to the World Series.
  • The Rotten Tomatoes Show lampshades this phenomenon in a song performed by Brett called Last Second Plays.
  • Averted in Rudy. During the game between Notre Dame and Georgia Tech, Rudy gets to go in on the final play only because Notre Dame already has a 35-3 lead. Rudy records a sack on the Georgia Tech quarterback to end the game.
  • In Rush, James Hunt needs to finish third or better in the last F1 race of the season to be world champion. He finishes third on the last lap of the race to beat Lauda by a single point and becomes world champion.
  • In Saratoga, the climactic horse race, which will either leave bookmaker Duke Bradley penniless or allow him to retire from bookmaking to run a ranch, comes down to a photo finish that has to be reviewed via a film reel.
  • In the final moments of the last game of Shaolin Soccer, the score is tied at 0 - 0 (because the enemy team decided they would rather win by injuring enough players on the good team to force them to forfeit). Naturally, the Love Interest shows up when they reach the point where they are one player short, and she and the main character combine their Kung Fu to make the ultimate shot and win the game.
  • In Space Jam, the Tune Squad is in a pinch — 10 seconds to go in the final quarter, down by two (meaning they would need to make a three-pointer to avoid tying) and they're a man down. Michael Jordan has just learned that, in Looney Tune Land, he can use the cartoony physics to his advantage, but without the extra man, they forfeit and Swackhammer gets him and the Tunes. Bill Murray (as in, the actor, not a character played by Murray; it's that kind of movie) arrives just in time and Jordan's able to pull off a half-court slam dunk to win the game.
  • Teen Wolf: Scott (Michael J. Fox) starts using his newfound werewolf powers to win basketball games for his high school, at the expense of alienating his teammates who see him hogging the ball, and the glory, for himself. Eventually Scott decides to retire the wolf, right before the Big Game against the rival Dragons, and that game ends up coming down to Scott being fouled by the Jerk Jock just as time expires with the Beavers down by 1, and Scott has to make the free throws — something that wouldn't be a problem for him in his wolf form, but in human form he usually misses them by overthinking about them. This time around, he sinks them, securing the win for the Beavers.
  • Thunderstruck has the final game for Brian's team feature the home team down two points, ten seconds left on the clock, and possession of the ball by the klutzy protagonist. He passes to a more competent player, who shoots a 3-pointer, but is blocked, leading to Brian making his only 3-pointer in the film other than when he had Durant's "talent".
  • Played with in the Kevin Costner movie Tin Cup, where the has-been pro (played by Costner) makes an impressive comeback in the U.S. Open Golf Tournament. It's down to the final hole, and he needs a par to tie and a birdie to win. The hole was a par 5 with a green guarded in front by a lake and he would have to murder his 3 wood to get it onto the green. Any sane golfer would lay up, he doesn't. He hits it into the lake, refuses to drop near the green, hits from where he hit his second shot, going for it again, hits it into the lake again, rinse and repeat until he holes the shot with his last ball in the bag for a 12 (had he dunked that one, he would've been disqualified). More than a few critics found this broke their Willing Suspension of Disbelief, arguing such would never happen in a "real" golf tournament. Until it did, more or less, see the Real Life section below.
  • In The Waterboy, the Bourbon Bowl's last play starts with the Mud Dogs losing 27-24. However, Bobby and the Mud Dogs execute a flea flicker play, with Bobby throwing the ball right before the clock hits 0:00. Guy catches Bobby's pass, and the Mud Dogs win, 30-27.
  • When Saturday Comes in which Sean Bean plays a football player named Jimmy Muir. He spends all the movie trying to become a member of Sheffield United. Of course, his very first match with them ends with him shooting a penalty at the 89th minute.
  • In Youngblood (1986), Dean beats the Thunder Bay Bombers with a penalty shot with only three seconds left.

  • Older Than Radio: In the 1888 Ernest Thayer poem Casey at the Bat, the great Casey strikes out to end the game. However, it's also an instance of an Unbuilt Trope, because Casey deliberately let the first two balls go by as strikes so that he could hit the winning home run to look like an even bigger hero, and then blew it.
  • Justified in the Harry Potter series: Quidditch matches end only when the Golden Snitch is caught; catching the Snitch is also worth 150 points, usually resulting in a win for the team whose Seeker catches it. Thus, most matches end with the Seekers in a mad race for the Snitch. However, large portion of matches still end up by a winning team winning by 10 points.
    • The number of Harry Potter parodies that have pointed out how senseless this rule is are too numerous to list. ("This game is very complicated, but none of the rules actually matter, because once you catch this little golden thing everything else becomes irrelevant and your team automatically wins.") Fans have pointed out that this may be because Hogwarts-level Quidditch isn't really very "good" Quidditch — the Quidditch World Cup scene shows scoring happening at a much faster rate, thus making the 150 points from the Snitch less impressive and increasing the probability that grabbing the Snitch too early might lose you the game (as was done deliberately in the Quidditch World Cup). Further, in the Hogwarts Quidditch tournaments, the exact score can matter for a team's placing, meaning even a team that would win when the Snitch is caught will wait if getting it too soon would win the game but lose the championship. (As happened with Gryffindor in Prisoner of Azkaban, Order of the Phoenix, and Half-Blood Prince.)
    • It also bears noting that J.K. Rowling's "Quidditch Through the Ages" book characterizes Quidditch's rules as primarily being a senseless, thrown-together mess of traditions kept for tradition's sake. (A lot like some real sports, come to think of it.) The Snitch itself only exists because of a riot that once broke up a Quidditch game when the players stopped playing to catch a bird intentionally released by the chief of the Wizard's Council so that the players would hunt the bird for his own amusement rather than play Quidditch for his own amusement. The 150 number is how many gold coins he offered as an incentive, and we're told that it would be worth quite a bit more today, so it's probably lucky that it's only 150.
    • The film version of The Philosopher's Stone emphasises this element of it further, although the likelihood is far more that this is a case of sloppy research than deliberately lampshading this trope - Wood explains to Harry, directly after explaining scoring rules with the Quaffles, that "you catch [the snitch], Potter, and we win."
  • Modern Villainess: It's Not Easy Building a Corporate Empire Before the Crash uses this as a metaphor for Runa's first financial coup. When she invests in Silicon Valley and in U.S. foreign exchange right before the dot-com boom and pulls her family's collapsing bank out of a hole, the business world refers to it as Far Eastern Bank's clutch home run; bottom of the ninth, two outs, two strikes.
  • The John Grisham novel Playing For Pizza opens with the main character, a journeyman 3rd string quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, blowing a colossal lead in the AFC Championship Game and being knocked unconscious-costing his team a chance at the Super Bowl. He's so disgraced he has to play in Italy.
  • Deliberately invoked in Little Myth Marker, where Skeeve bets a huge fortune on a single hand - the opening hand of the game - of Dragon Poker, because he doesn't have a clue how to play and figures an (incorrectly assumed) 50% chance is better than any odds he could get if he tried.
    • Also played with - Skeeve's stated logic is this: He claims luck got him to the match. His opponent is highly skilled. In the long run his opponent's skill will defeat his luck. However all the skill in the world cannot affect the outcome of a single hand. His opponent publicly plays along because of the prestige of the biggest bet in the history of the game being made on the outcome of one hand, and actually because it gets him out of his version of the "retirement for a gunfighter" problem - so much of his life and reputation is tied up in never losing a Dragon Poker match that the chance to finally lose publicly in a way that preserves his reputation for posterity (since Skeeve's charisma has sold the audience on the idea of a minimum-time, zero-skill game) would be almost worth the fortune to him.
    • All of which is rendered moot since the dealer has been bribed by a third party to make sure Skeeve wins and is using a marked deck.
  • Happens in a golf game in the McAuslan series, which hinges on the final hole, the final game of a five-game series, and the next-to-final desperate shot from the depths of a sand trap. This is, of course McAuslan's fault.
  • The Boy In The Dress has the main protagonist Dennis reclaim a football game his school's team was losing after he was expelled by the headmaster Mr. Hawtrey for crossdressing, which was disastrous to his team since he was the star player, and now they're losing as 6-0. The whole team rebels after half time by all wearing dresses to prevent the headmaster from expelling all of them, with Dennis back on play. He manages to outright overturn the game and his team wins by 6-7.
  • Jason from Hover Car Racer wins or loses several races by just a few centimeters.
  • Love Over Gold features this trope during the final game at the Tokyo Olympics between the British and Dutch field hockey teams, which ends with the score at 2-2. During the ensuing penalty shoot-out, each side takes four shots without anyone scoring a goal. Then the British team scores a goal, meaning that if British goalie Diane can fend off one more shot from Dutch forward Katrien, the British will get the gold. Diane just barely deflects the ball before it goes into the goal. It hits one post, then bounces off the other, then goes in almost exactly as the buzzer sounds. The video referee concludes that the buzzer sounded just before the ball went in, making the British the winners.
  • In the second Apprentice Adept novel, Blue Adept, protagonist Stile is pitted against former Great Tournament champion Rifleman in a game of American Football. At the end of the game, Stile is down by only two points, but Rifleman was guarding against the surprise drop kicks Stile had been using to stay in contentionnote . Stile was in the middle of a run when the game clock hit all zeros. Stile slowed to a dejected walk, thinking he had lost. Until he heard his robot companion Sheen yell "Run, you dummy" from the stands. He then remembered that the game didn't end until this final play ended. The play ended in a wild scramble down the field, ending in a fumble into the endzone and a dogpile on top of the ball, which one of Stile's players ended up with.
  • In The Cricket Match by John Parker, the eponymous match comes down to the final over, with the last two batsmen in and needing six runs to win.

    Live Action TV 
  • Full House did this thrice, with hockey in "Nice Guys Finish First", boxcar racing in "Michelle a la Cart," and with baseball and a twist in "Stephanie Plays the Field".
  • Family Matters:
    • "Making the Team," from the fall of 1991, sees the normally clumsy Urkel lead an amazing second-half comeback for his team. Down 20 points late in the third quarter, Urkel connects on a shot just before the buzzer for the go-ahead points and help the team win the game.
    • A couple of weeks later, in "A Pair of Ladies," Urkel gets revenge on Carl's big-talking, thinks-he's-macho, hustling superior officer Lt. Murtgauh in a poker game when the nerd one-ups Murtgauh's would-be-winning hand with "two pairs of tens".
  • Happy Days: The 1977 episode "A Shot in the Dark," where Richie becomes a basketball hero for Jefferson High when his last-second shot wins a big sectional game. In the next round, he's fouled at the buzzer with Jefferson trailing by two points; he makes the first shot to pull Jefferson to within one, but on the shot that would send the game into overtime ... he deliberately misses.
  • Averted in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine baseball episode, "Take Me Out To The Holosuite". The main characters lose the game 10-1 (with their single run being scored on an accidental bunt).
  • Glee. In two separate games, at the start of the Superbowl Shuffle episode, they lose a game by making a moronic play call in a situation where all they need to do is have Finn just take a knee. Then at the end of the episode they win another game when the other team ignores the same basic game ending strategy and and do the exact same error as Finn did in the first. There is a lengthy analysis of this at the Glee JBM for season 2 page.
    • Though the first was the result of the center being a dick with an intentionally low snap and the second was the result of the opposing center being frightened by their zombie makeup and snapping it high.
  • In one episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will is shown to be a very good basketball player, making all sorts of trick shots throughout the game. With his team down at the end, however, he's about to take a shot... when his cousin Carlton, wanting some glory himself, starts grappling with him for the ball, takes it, shoots, and misses horribly.
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • The police games in the episode "The Great Wall" is said to be a tie between Station 4 and Station 5 going into the final event (a tug-of-war between both teams). One of the men on the Station House 5 team loses his footing, giving Station House 4 a brief shot at winning, but Murdoch is distracted by seeing a clue that solves the murder case he's been investigating and Station House 5 wins the event.
    • The baseball game at the end of "Stroll on the Wild Side" is tied 8-8 when Murdoch comes to bat with Inspector Brackenreid on base. Despite the distracting presence of a member of the Black Hand, Murdoch hits the home run that brings both of them home to win the game.
    • The football (soccer) episode "Bend it Like Brackenreid" ends with the game going to penalties and John Brackenreid, previously established as unable to shoot straight, inventing the idea of a curving shot that goes round the opposition's wall.
    • The basketball episode, "It's a Wonderful Game", ends with Murdoch's son Harry, previously established as just generally bad at basketball and not even liking it much, being brought in as a sub and scoring the winning basket just before the buzzer. He says it was a fluke, but George, as coach, says that sometimes that's all you need.
  • In the made for TV movie Second String every playoff game the Buffalo Bills play comes down to the last play with just seconds on the clock.
  • Challenges on Top Gear. The presenters sometimes lampshade the ridiculousness of this, and sometimes insist it really was that close. Inverted in the race across London. Richard takes the lead instantly at the start and never relinquishes it.
  • Many of the challenges on Top Shot ended this way, with sometimes as little as a few hundredths of a second separating who stayed from who went home.

    The show also subverts this as often as not, with one particular contestant dominating a given challenge. Kelly's first elimination challenge and J.J.'s performance shooting steel in the finale are standout examples of almost comically one-sided matches.
  • Several individual legs of The Amazing Race have been decided by footrace, with the eliminated team in sight of the mat when the second-to-last team checks in. Season 7 had three legs decided this way. However, the only finale to be decided this way was in Season 2, with a footrace from the cabs to the Finish Line. Tara and Wil were in the lead when they jumped out of the cabs, but Tara was asthmatic and could not keep up, allowing more physically fit Chris and Alex to race past her and win the million dollars.
  • In Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm, Dewey and Reese are playing a basketball game with the foul-happy Hal, with the game tied, one move left and Hal on the offense. The boys realize they have no choice but to use "The Play". It does not go well for Hal.
  • Game show examples:
    • Family Feud has seen countless Fast Money rounds come down to the final question, with the score in the 180-199 range and the final answer being just enough to win the grand prize (200 is needed to win). Made even more dramatic if there is a string of zero- or low-scoring answers with the second player. Made heartbreaking if the final answer's score is zero or falls just short of the winning 200 score. In either case, the moment will be made more dramatic. In addition, the scoring is structured such that, most of the time, whoever wins the final round wins the game (the game is played to 300 points, and the final round usually nets upwards of 250). As it's rare for a team to get all the answers, the game often rides on whether the opposing team can steal those final-round points. Extra drama points if it's a family's fifth day, and they're playing for the car.
    • The Hollywood Squares: A five-square win, only after each of the contestants have filled in four boxes (none of which leads to Tic-Tac-Toe).
    • Press Your Luck (and even its precursor, Second Chance and revival Whammy!) will often have its outcome determined based on a contestant's final spin.
    • Wheel of Fortune: When a contestant solves the bonus round puzzle (or begins the correct answer) a split second before the buzzer. Sometimes, it's been so close that they've had to stop and check the tape, and not declare the contestant a winner until returning from commercial.
    • A few times, the Winner's Circle on Pyramid was cleared only at the last second.
    • Jeopardy!: While there were numerous close games through the years, one of the best "down to the last play" games came in the midst of Ken Jennings' incredible 74-game run in 2004. The game where he became champion was decided on Final Jeopardy! (he had the lead and bet liberally). On his 49th day, he had a mere $5,000 ($19,700 to $14,800) lead over the second place contestant and had to have the right answer (his opponent was incorrect) to win, which he did. Another of his games saw one of his opponents wager everything on a Daily Double late in Double Jeopardy! and guess correctly, and that opponent briefly took the lead before Jennings reclaimed the lead just before the end of the round; with Jennings leading by less than $2,000, both he and his opponent engaged in a truly dramatic Final Jeopardy! ... with Jennings winning. Finally, Jennings last game saw him hold a slim lead over the woman that finally beat him (thanks to Jennings giving a wrong answer).
    • Tic-Tac-Dough: The use of the special "red" categories frequently led to a showdown for a box that could give either contestant the win upon a correct answer. (In other words, both contestants have two of their mark in a line, and the box both are going for could give either one a tic-tac-toe.)
    • This happens a lot on The Chase, usually with the Final Chase ending at a ridiculously low time or the main chase ending with a 'one question shootout' (aka one right answer and the contestant goes through, one wrong one and they get caught and lose everything). Indeed, some of the winning/losing times in the Final Chase are just insane, with players having won/lost games with anything from ten seconds remaining, to two seconds remaining... to even ZERO seconds remaining (as in, they get caught and lose or win right as the clock hits zero at the end).
    • American Gladiators had a big one in the Season Three Finals. Mark Ortega and Joseph "Bam-Bam" Mauro were pretty neck and neck coming into the Eliminator, with Mark given a 4-second penalty for trailing Joseph by eight points. In the Eliminator, Mark caught up to Joseph as the latter failed to climb the first wall, then fell as he made it over. The two are dead even as they fight past the medicine balls and Mark makes a dive across the line as Joe tears through the ribbon, leading to a photo finish. After reviewing the video, they determined that Mark crossed the finish line first when he threw his arm out over the line with a time of 48.86 compared to Joseph's 48.88, meaning Mark beat Joseph by two hundredths of a second.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard episode "The Boar's Nest Bears" had such a match with a young prodigy player that was kept out from part of the match by machinations from the Opposing Sports Team's sponsor.
  • Arino the Retro Game Master often conquers games on his last few lives, when he's run out of time to play. They even named a song "Last Continue" because of this.
  • Father Brown: In "The Last Man", Kembleford is playing a vital cricket match for ownership of the local cricket ground. With three balls left and six runs needed to win, the opposing team engages in some Unnecessary Roughness to knock out Kembleford's star player with a cricket ball to the head. Kembleford already being a man down, Lady Felecia goes in as last man, and hits a six on the final ball.
  • On Hell's Kitchen they usually have some kind of preliminary competition between the two teams. The winners are rewarded, the losers are punished. Many of these contests are extremely subjective and they usually go back and forth until they end with a one-point victory.
  • In the Enemy at the Door episode "War Game", the format for the chess championship final match is for two games (with players alternating colours), with provision for a third tie-breaking game if one is required. Naturally, it is.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "Last Man Out", an undercover Jones wins the cricket match for his team by hitting a six off the last ball, despite having been knocked unconscious with a cricket bat earlier in the game.
  • In Ted Lasso:
    • The first season ends with a stoppage-time trick play that scores the tying goal that will save AFC Richmond from relegation. And then Man City rallies in the dying seconds to score another goal to relegate them.
    • The second season ends with a stoppage-time penalty that gives Richmond the tying goal to win promotion back to the Premier League.
  • Two simultaneous examples in the season four premier of Stranger Things. Lucas' basketball final only has enough time for one more play before the clock runs out, and Lucas is brought in from the bench for the first time in the season. Meanwhile, the D&D Club is down to only two surviving players in their battle against Vecna - Dustin and Erica, who can kill him if they manage to hit before his turn but will certainly die if he gets his own attack off. Both events are cut together with equal weight, both of them ending on a final throw. Lucas gets his shot in to just beat the other team, and Erica rolls a natural 20 to obliterate Vecna.

  • This happens in the first and only school championship water polo match in My Heart is Beating. The team does score and win, but they're disqualified for other reasons.

  • In Hit Somebody (The Hockey Song), there's thirty seconds left in the game when the main character, Buddy, gets the puck and successfully shoots a goal. There's no indication given that it was game winning, but it's still important because it's Buddy's final game before retirement and he's dreamed of shooting a goal his entire career.
  • The video for the Richard Marx song "Take This Heart" puts him in the situation of pinch-hitting for the Chicago Cubs during the seventh game of the World Series. In the bottom of the ninth, with two out and two strikes, he hits a home run to win the game and the Series — and then the whole thing turns out to be All Just a Dream.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Averted most of the time in Peanuts, where Charlie Brown's team losing a baseball game 216–0 is a regular occurrence. One 1959 episode had his team losing 600–0! Another series had him substituting for Peppermint Patty; her team was winning 50–0, but then when Chuck pitched, she got knocked out and later learned (while in bed receiving therapy from Marcie) that the opponents made a 51-run comeback.note  In fact, probably the only time that Charlie Brown's team actually wins a gamenote  is when Charlie is not playing.
    The specials did play the trope straight once, albeit in Football, not Baseball: In the game played during "It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown", Charlie Brown is not the quarterback, but rather the kicker, thereby allowing his team to be down 21-20 on the last play. (The reason for the 1-point difference is that Lucy, as holder, pulled the ball away on the first extra point.note ) Guess who gets called in on said last play?

  • At the end of a game in Stern's Iron Maiden, the player is given one last chance to play until the Bonus Time he accumulated earlier runs out.
  • Many of the games from Italian pinball maker Zaccaria have a feature called "Game Time Bonus." During the player's last ball, a timer is incremented as the player keeps playing. After the ball drains, the player can keep playing until the time counts down to zero.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • It's extremely rare for a 2-out-of-3 falls match to end at 2 falls. Similarly, an Iron Man match is usually tied, or the score is one fall apart, up until the closing moments. When it does end with only two falls, it is usually the heel in the match, and walk out of the match after losing one of the falls.
  • In Ring of Honor, the Briscoes developed a reputation for winning such matches in two straight falls.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Blood Bowl, the American Football meets Warhammer miniatures game, tends to have this when a fast team like Wood Elves plays against a tough one like Dwarves, with the fast team often scoring a few goals while the tough one is busy whittling them down (and "whittling them down" here means "curbstomp them until they leave the field on a stretcher"). Many games thus end with the tough team frantically trying to get the goals they previously lacked while the fast ones mount a Last Stand with the few remaining players not in the K.O. or Injured & Dead box.
  • The Board Game Ricochet Robots has a rule designed to cause this. The game consists of a series of randomly generated puzzles, with the goal being to come up with the shortest solutions. If two players get the same answer within one minute of each other, it's counted as a tie and goes to whoever was currently losing, rubber band style. This, and the fact that there are 17 rounds, means that even with mismatched players, games generally come down to an all-way tie decided by the last point.
    • Then again, since the puzzles are generated randomly, there's no guarantee that "last point" can't be solved in two moves.


    Video Games 
  • One stage of Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose! is the last few minutes of a football game, in which the player must score a touchdown to win.
  • Mario Superstar Baseball's intro movie shows a game between Mario and Wario which ends in a walk-off home run by Mario. Downplayed in that the game was already tied, and the home run causes them to win by 2 runs, but a walk-off is a walk-off.
  • Quake III: Arena: The capture limit for the One Flag CTF challenge "One Cap to Win" in Arena Arcade is 1.
  • In some versions of Madden NFL, if your team is lining up for a game winning field goal with a few seconds left on the clock. The camera has a more dramatic angle, the sound will quiet down except for an audible heart beat (complete with a slight rumble in your controller with each beat), and time slows down as the ball sails towards the uprights.
  • In Yakuza 5, Shinada's first, and last, home run as a pro was in the bottom of the ninth of a 0-0 tie game.
  • In F-Zero GX's second story map (a 1-on-1 against Samurai Goroh) your opponent has infinite boost, so if you try to boost past them they quickly retake the lead. But if you zoom past him at the last moment you win before they can catch up, and it's certainly easier than trying to knock him off-course.

    Visual Novels 
  • CLANNAD: The basketball match of episode 16 of season 1. Your average stuff of winning by one point included.
  • At the end of Double Homework (at least before the epilogues), the protagonist loses the Olympic qualifier to Rachel by a split second.
  • This happens with just about every competition in Majikoi! Love Me Seriously!. The Kawakami Ball game, Yamato's duel with Chris, Yamato's mahjong match with Fushikawa, the two-girl relay sprint, and more.
  • The Fussball match between the protagonist and title character of Melody comes down to the final point. If the protagonist wins, he gets a special, sexy surprise from Melody. If he loses, he has to prank-call Steve.

    Web Animation 
  • Many of Level UP's maze levels and other challenge videos usually have Mario win on his very last life.
  • Sonic for Hire: In Season 3, Sonic and the crew participate in a Tecmo Bowl game they rigged so they could get loads of money for losing. However, Sonic gets carried away with a winning streak, so Tails tries to get everyone riled up with a Rousing Speech to get them quickly lose the game... until Earthworm Jim points out they only have two seconds before the game is over, leaving Tails to enact Plan B, by having a tank plowed onto the field for instant disqualification.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In Critical Role: Campaign One, the pit brawl between Grog and Kern the Hammer in Episode 16 goes down to the last hit point. Kern wins, largely because Travis Forgot About His Powers and Matt didn't.
  • In a Survival of the Fittest flashback scene, David Jackson (a baseballer, the pitcher for Barry Coleson's team) remembers a triple play the team made at the eleventh hour to seal the championship - perfectly exhibiting this trope, though whether David got lucky with the first part of the play and rolled from there or he was just that good is left ambiguous.
  • Related to the Pokémon example above, users of Smogon typically write "war stories" which are glorified logs of their battles. The logs are often extremely close matches where both fighters get down to their last Pokémon. You can find the best ones in a "Warstory Archive" here.
  • Many of Rooster Teeth's "Achievement Hunter" videos, especially "Let's Play Minecraft" and "Vs." will easily come down to this, especially if it's a game where two players are incredibly close.
  • In the Game Grumps: Steam Train playthrough of Mario Party 4, Ross and Barry end up with a perfect tie at the end of the game, triggering the rare minigame where they simply roll dice to determine who wins.
  • In the brewstew episode "Little League", the narrator's team is down 2 runs on two outs, and Josh is up at bat. He hits the ball fall enough to score a Triple. Instead of staying at third as everyone the team told him, Josh tries to convert it into an Inside-the-Park Home Run. Unfortunately, his team loses, causing everyone to hate him for the rest of his life. The End.
  • Parodied in the official Roy Of The Rovers Twitter, when Roy comments on the 2015 UK General Election:
    @OfficialRoyRace: Melchester often confounds the pollsters, though. Result here frequently seems decided, only for there to be a huge last-minute turn-around.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: In "The Big Bugball Game", the match is tied at 9 to 9 with Sprig scoring the winning goal.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat". In the final inning of the softball game, Homer comes up to the plate with the bases loaded, and is hit by the pitch while he's distracted by Mr. Burns's needlessly complicated Hand Signals, forcing in the winning run.
  • The Owl House: In "Wing It Like Witches", the outcome of both Grudgby games is open with equal scores until the very last moment.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures:
    • Averted in the short, "Bleacher Bummer" from the episode, "The Wacko World of Sports". Said short had a baseball game that didn't come down to the final play... but only because there was no climactic final play to speak of, as the other team, Perfecto Prep, was forced to forfeit (with a big lead) over illegal equipment.
    • In the episode, "The Acme Bowl", the show did do a football game which does come down to the final play. Again, Acme Looniversity faced off against Perfecto Prep.
    • The short, "Buster at the Bat" from the episode, "Son of the Wacko World of Sports" was a direct parody of "Casey at the Bat". Buster, however, hits a home run, to the surprise of the narrator.
  • In Regular Show episode "Skips Strikes", Skips just needs to get a bowling strike to win while the other team gets ready to sabotage him. Despite their efforts to stop the ball, the Magical Elements lose and the Park Strikers wins.
  • Dinosaur Train: In the Classic in the Jurassic games, the three teams are almost tied, but the turtle race isn't over yet. Paulie Proganocheyls (a turtle who can't retract her neck) takes home the win for Team Triassic by accident when the other two turtles retract their necks just as they all cross the finish line.
  • Lampshaded so much in the South Park episode "Stanleys Cup"; the subversion at the end could be seen a mile away.
  • A horse race in Futurama takes the photo finish concept one step further and ends with a quantum finish. "No fair, you changed the outcome by measuring it!"
  • Steven Universe: In the Baseball Episode, "Hit The Diamond", the game comes down to "Humans" down by one with Sapphire at bat and one runner on base.
  • In The Real Ghostbusters episode "Night Game," Winston hits the winning home run in a baseball game between teams of good and evil ghosts. This trope is justified because there was a Secret Test of Character to see if the Ghostbusters would cheat, and, presumably, the temptation was greatest with this situation. Also, the teams were so evenly matched that they were still tied zero-to-zero for the first eight innings.
  • Disney Studios adapted Casey at the Bat in 1946, as part of Make Mine Music, and did a sequel in 1954 ("Casey Bats Again") where he ends up having enough daughters to field a very good baseball team.
  • In We Bare Bears episode "Ranger Games", the kickball game comes down to Grizzly having to score a home run in the bottom of the ninth with two outs.
  • King of the Hill:
    • The show originally subverted this with Hank Hill's team getting blown out in the state championship. However, this was later retconned to have been a close game that Hank lost for his team.
    • They played it straight when Hank and Bobby entered a father and son target shooting competition. It all came down to Hank's last shot, where he needed a bullseye to win— and he missed the whole target. This didn't lead to the expected Downer Ending, though, because Bobby was more than happy with second place.
  • X-Men: Evolution: Season 2's first episode opens with this trope, as the only goal we're shown in the soccer match is the winning one, scored by Jean, of course.
  • In an episode of The Fairly OddParents!, Timmy wishes to be the best basketball player ever in order to help a basketball team. He does great until the last play, in which Wanda explains that "Everybody knows that the last two minutes are the real competitive part of any professional basketball game!" and they can't help Timmy win a competition.
  • The Beetlejuice episode "The Unnatural" has B.J.'s New Yuck Prankees in a grudge baseball game against Scuzzo the Clown's Jokeland Laugh-letics, with the losing team relegated to a hell hole called "The Loser's Circle." With the score tied, the final inning comes down to a play at the plate with B.J. waiting to tag out Scuzzo, obscured by a cloud of dust. When the dust clears, the two opponents are demanding the umpire call it, but Lydia interrupts and brings everyone to tears with an impassioned treatise on sportsmanship and the simple joys of baseball. The crowd watching the game cries so hard, in fact, that the game is called off on account of rain.
  • Bugs Bunny takes on the Gas House Gorillas in "Baseball Bugs". With the score 96-95 in Bugs' favor and two out in the bottom of the ninth, the Gorillas have a runner on base and the batter uses a freshly chopped-down tree as a bat. He wallops Bugs' pitch so far that Bugs has to traverse the top of the Umpire State Building to catch it. The Gorillas batter is called out by the umpire and the Statue of Liberty.
    • Earlier and similarly, "Boulevardier From The Bronx" had the Giants leading 3-0 in the bottom of the ninth. With two out, Giants pitcher Dizzy Dan deliberately loads the bases via walks so he could get to the other team's hick Claude and strike him out. On an 0-2 pitch, Claude hits a grand slam, winning the game for his team and getting the last laugh on Dizzy Dan.
  • In Monsters University, the Scare Games score is all tied up before the last duel between Mike and Johnny Worthington.
  • The Beatles enter a donkey in a Madrid horse race as it runs very fast in panic when it hears loud music (episode "Tell Me Why"). It comes down to a photo finish between the donkey and another horse. The donkey appears to have won by a nose, but he didn't...he won by the jockey's (Ringo) nose.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the episode "Slice of Life", the Doctor gets roped into a bowling game. Distracted by Derpy, he fumbles a game-deciding throw against a 7-10 split in the final frame. Nevertheless, the slowly-moving ball nudges one of the pins, causing it to dramatically wobble toward the other. After a few tense moments, it simply falls over, leaving a lone pin standing, much to his team's frustration.
  • In Dragons: Riders of Berk special "Dawn of the Dragon Races", there are three races in which the dragonriders compete to catch the most sheep. Every race has them get the same number of sheep and all go after the black sheep as a tiebreaker. (Although, since the black sheep is worth 25 points once the rules get formalised, it's a Golden Snitch anyway.)
  • Classic Disney Shorts:
    • Casey Bats Again: Bottom of the ninth, the Caseyettes are one point behind and all hopes are on mighty Patsy to win the game. Suddenly, a desperate Casey drags her off and takes her place in disguise. He gets two strikes, and just like his last game, it's up to him to hit a homerun. He strikes out, just like before; fortunately, Patsy is just behind him and hits the ball, leaving Casey to believe he won the game.

Real Life Examples:

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    Association Football 
  • In the English First Division (now Premier League), Liverpool vs Arsenal at Anfield in 1989 is considered the most iconic example of this in football. By sheer coincidence, this match had been postponed due to the Hillsborough Disaster, and so took place on the last day of the league season. Having thrown away a significant lead they'd had earlier in the season, Arsenal were now three points behind Liverpool at the top of the table, with slightly inferior goal difference but having scored more goals. If they wanted the title, they'd have to beat Liverpool, at their home ground, by two goals or more, something no team had done in three years, and something Arsenal hadn't managed in fifteen. Furthermore, Liverpool had never previously been defeated when playing forwards John Aldridge and Ian Rush together. Arsenal had it all to do. Yet they went 1-0 up early in the second half thanks to an Alan Smith header. Then with 25 seconds left this happened.
    • This goal was credited not so long back (along with Hillsborough and the launch of Sky TV) with saving the institution of British football, which at the time had a (admittedly not undeserved) reputation as being filled with Football Hooligans, especially Liverpool. The Liverpool fans, who by rights should've been livid with having the title snatched from under their noses in the last ten seconds of the league (the celebratory champagne was even on its way to the Liverpool dressing room), instead chose to applaud Arsenal's well-deserved victory.
  • The Turkish national team was nicknamed "The Comeback Kings" in Euro 2008 for doing this repeatedly:
    • Won against co-host Switzerland by a last-minute goal from outside the box in the group stages.
    • Pulled back from 0-2 to 3-2 against the Czech Republic in 15 minutes, with the third goal scored in the last minute, also in the group stages.
    • In the quarter finals, held off the much stronger Croatia for some 119 minutes after going to extra time, when, one minute before the end, Croatia scored. Since it's virtually impossible to score a goal with only a few seconds on the clock in soccer, Croatia's fans and management were already celebrating. Yet Turkey went on to score out of nowhere in the last minute and then win easily on penalties, having totally crushed Croatia's spirit with that incredibly unlikely comeback.
    • Karma finally intervened in the semifinals, where Germany scored the winning goal (3-2) in the 90th minute, denying the Turks an extra time they were already counting on. This match was infamous for the international TV coverage failing during the second half due to adverse weather conditions in the TV broadcast centre in Switzerland - many worldwide viewers saw little of the second half, while broadcasters in the UK and France switched to delivering their RADIO commentary through the TV for a time.
  • The 2006 MLS Cup. The New England Revolution scored 8 minutes into the second overtime to go up 1-0, but since it was not sudden death like many sports, the Houston Dynamo had time to score the tying goal - and did, just over a minute later. The Dynamo eventually won on penalty kicks.
  • Speaking of MLS Cups, the 2022 edition was this on steroids and acid. Los Angeles FC and the Philadelphia Union ended regular time tied 2–2. In the 116th minute, LAFC was reduced to 10 men when goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau was sent off after a collision in his own penalty area with a Union player that broke his own leg. Nine minutes of stoppage time was awarded, and Jack Elliott scored what seemed to be the Cup-winning goal in the 124th minute. Enter Gareth Bale, the all-time leading goal scorer for Wales, who had come on for LAFC in added time after having played only six minutes total since September (the final is in November). He scored the equalizer eight minutes into stoppage time, sending the match to penalties, where LAFC won. Crosses over with Earn Your Happy Ending in that the equalizer was Bale's final goal in club play, as he fully retired after captaining Wales in that year's World Cup.
  • Likely the most famous example is the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final between Manchester United and Bayern Munich. With Bayern leading 1-0 going into stoppage time, United equalised with an absolutely wild goal and then scored the winning goal two minutes later with virtually the final kick of the game. The ending was so unexpected that they had to take the Bayern Munich ribbons off the trophy before presenting it. Not only did United win in the most dramatic fashion, but the victory made them the only English team to do "The Treble" — winning the UEFA Champions League, FA Cup and the Premier League in the same year.
    • This wasn't exactly novel for United — they did basically the same thing to overhaul Liverpool in the fourth round of the FA Cup earlier that season. In fact, they did this so often under Alex Ferguson (later Sir Alex) that the phenomenon was dubbed "Fergie Time". Moments before the equalizing goal in the aforementioned UEFA Champions League Final, English commentator Clive Tyldesley even lampshaded it, remarking, "Can Manchester United score? They always score!"
  • In the last round of group matches during the 2002-03 Champions League first group stage, Newcastle United, having led Feyenoord 2-0 at one point, had been pegged back to 2-2. With Dynamo Kyiv trailing 1-2 to Juventus in the other match, the winner between Newcastle and Feyenoord would progress to the second group stage; if it was a draw Dynamo would progress instead. In the first minute of injury time, Craig Bellamy scored the winner to send Newcastle through to the next round. To date, Newcastle United are alongside Atalanta BC the only team in Champions League/European Cup history to lose their first three matches in a group stage and still progress to the next round.
  • The 2004 Copa América Final between Brazil and Argentina. The score was 2-1, but Brazil managed to score a goal at the last second. This is made even more dramatic, because Brazil and Argentina are the biggest rivals in the history of football. Brazil then won the penalty shootout.
  • Liverpool were 3-0 down against AC Milan at half-time in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final. Milan were considered to be possibly the best team on the planet at the time, while Liverpool had lost their star striker to Real Madrid the previous summer and wriggled into the final via luck, a never-say-die attitude and a few moments of magic from Steven Gerrard. Fifteen minutes into the second half, after three goals in six minutes, the score was 3-3. However, the actual last play was a double save from Liverpool's goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek against Andriy Shevchenko (then one of the best players on the planet) near the end of extra time that was later voted the greatest UEFA Champions League moment of all time. Those saved took the match all the way to penalties, which Liverpool won.
    Andriy Shevchenko misses this with less than 3 minutes to go. You may as well start carving Liverpool's name on this trophy.
    • Earlier in the campaign, they needed to beat Olympiacos 1-0 or by 2 goals to progress to the knockout stage. Problem was, Olympiacos were the ones leading 1-0 at half time, which meant they needed to score at least three goals to progress. With three and a half minutes left, with the score at 2-1 to Liverpool, Gerrard responded with this goal and the commentator promptly went berserk.
    OOOOH YA BEAUTY! What a hit, son! What a hit!
    • The following year, Liverpool were 3-2 down in the FA Cup final with only seconds left on the clock. The ball was lobbed into the box, knocked out and fell to Gerrard. The man could barely walk. So he did this. Once again, they won on penalties.
    • Really, Liverpool are just as prone to this as United were under Alex Ferguson. Take their 2016 Europa League quarter-final against competition favourites Borussia Dortmund, who were in the process of challenging the near-unstoppable Bayern Munich for the German title. They would finish second in the Bundesliga and were one of the most feared teams in Europe, while Liverpool (then 8th in the Premier League) were generally seen as a fallen giant. The only advantages Liverpool had were manager Jürgen Klopp, who had previously managed Dortmund and knew the team inside out, and stubbornness. In the first leg, at Dortmund, they executed a perfect containment strategy, getting a 1-1 draw and thereby a valuable away goalnote . Dortmund responded by coming to Anfield and scoring two goals in the first eight minutes, putting them 2-0 up on the night and 3-1 up on aggregate, meaning that Liverpool had to win outright. Liverpool duly pulled one back, making it 2-1 (3-2). Dortmund promptly scored again, making it 3-1 (4-2). There were less than 25 minutes to go, but Liverpool steadily hauled down their technically-superior opponents, making it 3-3 (4-4). At this point, Dortmund were still going through on the away goals rule. Then, in stoppage time, Liverpool scored a 4th, making it 4-3 on the night and 5-4 on aggregate. In the words of the commentator, "Liverpool have come back from the dead!" Afterwards, #ComeBackKings was trending on Twitter, and most appropriate it was too.
  • Speaking of FA Cup Finals, the 1993 FA Cup Final was won by Arsenal in the dying seconds after defender Andy Linighan outjumped Sheffield Wednesday's Mark Bright to head home from close range. Even sweeter for Arsenal? Linighan was playing with a broken nose, having earlier been elbowed in the face... by Mark Bright.
  • FC Barcelona needed either a win or a score draw to advance to the 2009 Champions League final. After Chelsea took the lead 10 minutes in, the result didn't change until the third minute of stoppage time, when the "Iniestazo" happened.
  • Jimmy Glass. The fate of Carlisle's attempt to avoid relegation from the Football League (and probable folding due to the subsequent financial blow) has come down to the fourth minute of injury time in the last game of the season, when Glass, their (on loan) goalkeeper, comes up for a corner. Via a couple of rebounds and deflections, it comes to him in the six-yard box, and he duly pokes home. The result is the world's fastest pitch invasion, as 7,000 Carlisle fans immediately mob him in celebration, and one of the most iconic moments in Football League history.
  • Speaking of goalkeeper goals - which are, naturally, very rare... it's May 2021. Liverpool, last season's champions, have had a horrible season with costly injuries all over the pitch - they're on their fifth and sixth (possibly seventh) choice centre-backs, not counting the midfielders who've covered back there, and their fifth-choice captain. Two of their famous front three have been off-form all season, and their newly acquired back-up, Diogo Jota, is also injured. Their famous home record is shot, and they have to win all three of their remaining games to barely squeeze into the Champions League. They're away against West Bromwich Albion - already relegated, but with a strong record against Liverpool. Their manager, Big Sam Allardyce, is the only manager Liverpool's Jürgen Klopp hasn't beaten in the Premier League. West Brom go ahead, Liverpool peg them back, before doing their best to pick their way through West Brom's stubborn defence, peppering the goal with 26 shots, while the home side threaten on the counter and have a second goal harshly ruled out. It's the 5th minute of stoppage time, the last kick of the game. Liverpool have their 13th corner of the match. Alisson Becker, the Liverpool goalkeeper (whose father had died earlier that year), jogs up to join the corner - common practice, though it usually just provides an extra distraction for the defence. The ball swings in, and Alisson leaps to head it perfectly into the far corner, becoming the first goalkeeper to score for Liverpool in their 129-year history. He is immediately mobbed by the entire Liverpool team, while West Brom and everyone else are understandably wondering what the hell just happened. Alisson broke down in tears, and in a post-match interview dedicated the goal to his recently-deceased father, whose funeral he had been unable to attend due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal was instrumental in Liverpool's run in qualifying for next season's Champions League, where Liverpool were drawn in a group of death. Not only did they top the group, but they won every single match, the first English club to do so, and all thanks to their goalkeeper's last-minute header. In the words of Klopp, "All you need is Alisson Becker!"
  • Another example of a goalkeeper goal at the death happened on September 20, 2023 on the first matchday of the 2023–24 Champions League group stage. Atlético Madrid took a 1–0 lead at Lazio in the 29th minute, and it stayed that way well into stoppage time. In the fifth minute of stoppage time, Lazio earned a corner, and keeper Ivan Provedel came up into attack. The ball fell to Luis Alberto on the edge of the penalty area, and he crossed into the inner box, where an onrushing Provedel met the ball to head in an improbable equalizer on the game's final touch. Provedel became the fourth keeper to score in the Champions League, and the second to do so from open play.
  • The Manchester Derby in September 2009 (voted the best match of the first 20 years of the Premier League) featured bad blood, great play, blunders, irony, and this trope. Already a heated match due to it being a local derby, tensions were even higher because of Carlos Tévez, who had left Manchester United and joined Manchester City in the previous offseasonnote . Three times, United scored; each time, City equalized, with the third equalizer coming in the 90th minute after a horrific mistake from normally-solid United defender Rio Ferdinand. With five minutes of added time given, a desperate long ball by United landed at the feet of Ryan Giggs, who found Michael Owennote  unmarked. Owen duly scored with the last kick of the game, and United won 4-3. City complained that the added time was more than five minutes, with United fans firing back that the celebration for City's third goal was the reason more time was added on. See the highlights here.
  • Qualifying for the 2010 World Cup between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, with Bahrain advancing on a draw, 1-1 as they head to stoppage time. Saudi Arabia scores one minute into stoppage time, breaking Bahrain's hearts until they score with seconds to play. As the commentator says, "Bahrain were down and out and dead and buried and now they're back in."
    • Unfortunately they were then beaten by New Zealand in the final World Cup play-off.
  • During the 2010 World Cup round-robin match between the United States and Algeria, the United States needed a win to advance. The score was tied at 0-0 going into stoppage time in the second half. Landon Donovan scored the winning goal for the United States during stoppage time, causing very emotional reactions all over the United States.
    • They did it again in World Cup qualifying action against Jamaica. They scored early to go up 1-0, but at 89', Jamaica equalized. At 90'+3', Michael Bradley passed to Bradley Evans, who slotted it in and won the match 2-1. The US went on to win all three June qualification games and take the lead in the Hex.note  The USMNT eased from there to qualify for the World Cup proper.
  • A-League, 2006-07 Major Semi-Final. The first leg had ended goalless, and the second saw away team Adelaide United take an early lead, and even though home team Melbourne Victory equalised, Adelaide looked set to go through to, and host, the Grand Final on away goals. Two minutes into second half injury time, a substitute, who had never scored for Melbourne, and never did again, loops a header over the keeper and sends Melbourne into the Grand Final. Melbourne ended up crushing Adelaide 6-0 in the decider.
    • The 2010-11 Grand Final. Brisbane Roar, the red hot favourites, against the Central Coast Mariners, who have never won the Grand Final. The match goes into Extra Time at 0-0, when a substitution turns the game in the favour of the Mariners. They score in the 96th and 103rd minutes, leaving Brisbane 15 minutes to come back in the 2nd half of extra time. Time slowly ticks away, until the 117th minute comes and Brisbane score. The final kick of the game is a corner kick in the 120th minute, which one of their defensive midfielders jumps up and scores with. They then win the Grand Final 4-2 in a penalty shootout.
    • The year after in the 2011-12 Grand Final, Brisbane came up against Perth Glory. Perth were massive outsiders, but fought and harassed the free flowing Brisbane team and scored through a Brisbane own goal in the 54th minute. Brisbane managed to push and force an equaliser in the 84th minute, then in the 4th minute of injury time Brisbane were awarded a penalty after their striker was tripped when about to shoot, he scored and won the game for Brisbane.
  • Happened not once, but arguably twice in the 1970 World Cup semi-final between Germany and Italy. Italy led 1-0 for all of regular time, until Germany equalized in the 90th minute, leading to extra time and a total of 5 goals, the final, decisive goal happening in the 111th minute. This game was dubbed the "Match of the Century" for a reason, and there's still a plaque at the stadium remembering it.
    • The two got to it again in 2006, where Italy won in extra time with goals in the 119' and 121' minutes - even more painful for Germany as they were hosts that year. The second goal broke a record that had stood since 1990, when England scored over Belgium at the 119th minute of their round of 16 game.
  • Arsenal v Liverpool in the 2010-11 Premier League; after an injury to Jamie Carragher, and other delays, the referee calls for eight minutes of stoppage time. Arsenal finally manage to work their possession and pretty play into an opening, they win a penalty in the 97th minute, Robin van Persie converts it in the 98th, 1-0 Arsenal, They Think It's All Over. It's not. The referee adds on time for the remonstrations and penalty, Liverpool win a free kick at the other end, it breaks towards Leiva, he's fouled, and Liverpool have a penalty of their own. Dirk Kuyt steps up and scores; the 102nd minute goal really is the last play.
  • The 2010 Europa League Final between Atlético Madrid and Fulham was decided by a last-minute goal in extra time from Atleti's Diego Forlán.
    • A final they were playing thanks to another extra-time goal by Forlán in the semi-final against Liverpool.
  • The 1995/96 season of the Danish Superliga, saw Brøndby IF (the top dog of the league) and Aarhus GF (fielding perhaps their best squad of the past 25 years) locked in a hard-fought duel for the title. In round 30 (of 33) the two faced each other on Aarhus' homefield, Brøndby leading the table by 1 point. In the dying moments of the first half Peter Møller pulled Brøndby ahead 0-1. After 75 minutes, however, Aarhus had pulled together an extraordinary comeback to lead 3-1. A late goal brought Brøndby some hope, and with about 2 minutes to go, Brøndby got a corner kick. On a whim, Brøndby's goalie, Mogens Krogh, decided to move into Aarhus' penalty area in a desperate attempt to disrupt Aarhus' defence (Krogh later admitted he didn't have the approval of coach Skovdahl to make this move). In a frantic play, Krogh managed to score the equalizer with 90 seconds to go. The match ended 3-3. At the season end, Brøndby secured the title with 67 points against Aarhus' 66.
    • Years later, Brøndby was fighting a battle to avoid relegation (it would have been their first ever, since reaching top-flight football in 1982). As it happened, in the last round of matches, they would be playing away against AC Horsens, their main contender in the relegation battle. Thanks to a curious win the week before, Brøndby only needed a draw to stay up. However, the match was incredibly dirty, with the referee quickly losing control of the match, refusing to penalise very hard tackles made by AC Horsens players, while penalising Brøndby players at random. One tackle injured Brøndby's main striker, and when a Brøndby player complained to the referee, he recieved his second yellow card and was sent off. With Brøndby down to 10 men, AC Horsens came closer and closer to scoring. That is, until 3½ minutes into overtime, when this happened
  • In the first leg of the 2012 Copa del Rey Quarterfinal, 3rd Division Mirandés were leading 1st Division Espanyol 2-0 in the 85th minute, but Espanyol came back to win 3-2. Then, in the second leg, the score was 1-1 in injury time before a last-minute free kick saw Mirandés win 2-1 and reach the semi-finals on away goals.
  • The 2012 English Premier League was won in the last match of the season by Manchester City over Manchester United with two goals in stoppage time. United needed to beat Sunderland to stand a chance of overcoming City in the final standings, while City faced Queens Park Rangers. Both matches were played simultaneously; United scored against Sunderland after twenty minutes, putting the pressure on City. City scored against QPR after 39 minutes, retaking the title provisionally. Then QPR equalised after half time and with sixteen minutes remaining sensationally went ahead, leaving City needing two goals to win the Premier League. They got the equaliser right on full time and had five minutes of stoppage time to get another. At the same time United vs. Sunderland finished 1-0 in United's favour, leaving United looking like the champions until City's Sergio Agüero fired in a winner close to the end of stoppage time. The goal is known as "93:20", the timestamp of the match where Aguero scored.
    Martin Tyler: AgueroooOOOOOOOO! [Agüero scores, the crowd goes wild] I swear, you'll never see anything like this ever again! So watch it! Drink it in! Two goals in added time for Manchester City to snatch the title away from Manchester United! Stupendous!
  • A 2013 play-off semi-final between Watford and Leicester ended when the Watford goalkeeper blocked a penalty kick, and then blocked the followup shot before Watford drove the ball immediately down the field. Troy Deeney scored the winning goal just as time was about to be called, putting Watford up 3-2 on aggregate score and sending them to the final.
    Bill Leslie: Here's Hogg! DEENEY! (Deeney scores, the crowd erupts) Do not scratch your eyes, you are really seeing the most extraordinary finish here! [...] With the very last kick of this playoff semifinal, Troy Deeney wins it for Watford and sends them to Wembley!
  • The 2012 UEFA Champions League Final. In the red corner, Bayern Munich, playing on home turf. In the blue corner, Chelsea, who had eliminated FC Barcelona, the reigning Champions, in the semifinals with virtually the last kick of the tie after being 2-0 down with ten men. With seven minutes remaining, Bayern breach the Chelsea defence to take the lead. However, with two minutes of normal time remaining, Chelsea equalise. The match goes to penalties, and with literally the last kick of the game, Didier Drogba scores with his penalty to win the final for Chelsea. He also scored the equaliser, and with his announced intention to leave Chelsea, his penalty was also the last kick for him as a Chelsea player.
  • The United States women's national soccer team seems to have a habit of this in recent tournaments.
    • In the 2011 Women's World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil, the USA were down 2-1 in extra time when Megan Rapinoe crossed a ball in to Abby Wambach, who headed it home to tie the game in the 122nd minute. The USA would later go on to win in the penalty shoot out. Wambach's goal is the latest in World Cup history, and the second-latest in women's soccer history, behind...
    • In the semifinal of the 2012 Olympic tournament, the USA came from behind to equalize against Canada three times. Fast-forward to the 123rd minute and Alex Morgan slotted home a header to win the game for the USA.
      • Not to be outdone, the Canadian women who suffered that loss against the USA would get a last-minute victory of their own in the bronze medal game, courtesy of a Diana Matheson header.
  • In the 2008-2009 La Liga, Real Madrid (who needed a win to continue challenging uber-rival Barcelona for the league) were drawing 2-2 against Getafe in the 87th minute when a Getafe striker, Casquero, was tripped in the penalty area by Real defender Pepe. Getafe were awarded a penalty kick and Pepe was sent off, leaving his team a man down. Casquero stepped in to take the penalty himself, and did a Panenka, a type of kick that if scored is considered humiliating for the goalkeeper. Real's keeper Iker Casillas, however, caught the ball and immediately passed it to his teammates, who went on to score before full-time. Casquero was the national punching bag for weeks after.
  • Ghana were awarded a penalty kick in the very last moment of extra time against Uruguay in their 2010 World Cup quarter-final, after a clear goal for Ghana was punched away by Uruguay's Luis Suárez. The penalty was missed, leading to a penalty shootout which Ghana lost, eliminating the last remaining African team in the South Africa WCnote .
  • After coming back from a 3-0 loss with a 5-0 second leg win in the 2013/14 Europa League Quarterfinals, Valencia lose 2-0 to Sevilla in the first leg of the semis. In the second leg, they pull it off again, coming back to 3-0. Come the 93rd minute, former Valencia player Albelda comments on the radio how it was a done deal by then and how he never saw their comeback in danger, since Sevilla clearly weren't going to score the away goal that would put them through in the few remaining seconds. You know where this is going.
  • The 2000/01 Bundesliga saw an example of this. "Plucky Underdog" Schalke 04 was chasing "Eternal Champion" Bayern Munich every game of the season. They were level on points after 32 of 34 matches and both headed towards a draw on the penultimate day of the season, when in the third minute of stoppage time almost at the same time Bayern and Schalke's opponent Stuttgart both scored. Thus before the last day, Schalke were trailing by 3 points, and with Bayern playing at Hamburg, only just above the relegation zone, all seemed sealed against Schalke, especially since they went down by two goals themselves against unfancied Unterhaching, only to equalize and immediately fall behind again. In the end, Schalke was able to turn the match around to a "comfortable" 5-3 victory. Then, unexpectedly, 2 minutes from time Hamburg scored the 1-0 against Bayern, putting Schalke in pole position on goal difference. And Hamburg defended the lead until the 4th minute of stoppage time, when a controversial ruling for a handled back pass (and of course Hamburg's goalkeeper who did this was on loan from Schalke) gave Bayern a last shot at the title. At the same time, the whistle was reported in Schalke as the final whistle, so that they would be champions for the first time in half a century, and pitch invasion and celebration followed immediately - until the live scenes were shown on the stadium screen (the free kick was somewhat delayed due to many protests in Hamburg). Bayern converted the last kick, by now 12 minutes in stoppage time, drew and thus became champions (again). Schalke since then carries the moniker "Meister der Herzen" (champion of hearts) and the validity of the ruling is still heftily discussed, with fans and players from both Schalke and Hamburg insisting to this day that this wasn't an intentional pass and thus could be handled.
  • After coming from Lima with a 2-2 result against Sporting Cristal, FBC Melgar was having a very hard time against Sporting Cristal, despite being the locals, and despite they were scoring, Cristal scores, until the point that they were 2-2 and with that leading to end into a penalty shootout, where Cristal were well known to win in most scenarios. However, just 2 minutes before the end of the match and on the injury time, this happened.
  • The 2014 UEFA Champions League final. Minute 93. Atlético de Madrid are winning 1-0 against Real Madrid. Atleti fans are already savoring the title (which they have never won). Then, Real gets a corner kick (right after another corner kick Atleti's defense sent out)... and Sergio Ramos heads it into Atleti's goal, literally tying the game in the last minute. The morale shock was so high that Real proceeded to curb-stomp Atleti in extra time to win 4-1.
    • Sergio Ramos has scored so many goals in the last play that the fans and the press jokingly call the extra time after minute 90 "Noventa y Ramos" (Ninety Ramos).
  • The 2016-17 UEFA Champions League Round of 16. FC Barcelona had lost to Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg by 4-0, which meant they had to win by 5 goals at least. They manage to score three goals in 50 minutes, but then Cavani scores again in minute 68 - which means they need three more goals. Neymar manages to score a free kick on minute 88, and then a penalty on 90. PSG tries to fortify itself... but in the last minute, Neymar kicks the ball into the box and Sergi Roberto kicks it in, scoring the 6-1 Barça needed to offset their previous loss and go on to quarter-finals. This is the first time in UEFA Champions League/European Cup history that a team has overcome a 4-goal deficit from the first leg to progress to the next round. This run was dubbed the "Remontada", and made such an astounding impact, the term itself became used for any situation involving a comeback, anywhere in the world.
    • PSG becomes the victim of these again two years later. They are drawn against Manchester United, who suffer an inconsistent season under José Mourinho and had to replace him with Ole Gunnar Solskjær. They take 2-0 advantage going to the second leg courtesy of goals from Kylian Mbappé and Presnel Kimpembe with Man. United lost their talisman Paul Pogba after got red card in the first leg. PSG then proceed to implode themselves in the second leg against depleted United side. Romelu Lukaku scores in the second minutes after exploiting horrible backpass from Thilo Kehrer. PSG then equalise several minutes later, and United had to score at least two goal to advance. The usually solid Gianluigi Buffon then uncharacteristically failed to catch Marcus Rashford long range effort and the loose ball was exploited by Lukaku to bag his second goal. As the closing minutes draw to a close and United seems to eliminated in the round of 16 for two consecutive year, substitute Diogo Dalot tries his luck with a long range strike. The ball struck the arm of Presnel Kimpembe, and after some VAR reviewing the referee awarded penalty to United. Rashford then stepped up to take the penalty and proceed to smash it past Buffon in the injury time.
  • The Euro 2004 semifinal between Greece and the Czech Republic finished 0-0 in 90 minutes. As a result, the game went into extra time, which, for this tournament, used the silver goal rulenote . At the end of the first half, Greece had a corner that was played into the box, before being headed into the goal by Traianos Dellas, which gave Greece the lead and a place in the Final that nobody had predicted a minute later.
  • During the final match of their 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign, England needed at least a draw to qualify, but were 2-1 down going into stoppage time. Cue David Beckham doing what David Beckham does best. This goal had the added effect of instantly turning Beckham from one of England's most hated footballers (after his petulant red card at the previous World Cup) into one of its most beloved.
  • In the 2003 Women's World Cup, Sweden took a 1–0 lead through Hanna Ljungberg late in the first half. Germany equalised just after the break thanks to Maren Meinert. Neither team scored again in regulation time, sending the match to extra time, which then operated under the golden goal rule (i.e. pure sudden death). Cue Germany's Nia Künzer ending the match and claiming the World Cup eight minutes in.
  • During one group stage in the 2019 Women's World Cup, Cameroon and New Zealand played each other for the chance to get out of the group - since some third place teams were allowed out, either of them would advance if they won (and ended up with three points), while neither would advance if they tied and both had one point. The two teams were tied at the 90-minute mark and tied for nearly all of the few minutes of stoppage time, only for Cameroon to score in the literal last play before the final whistle was blown.
  • A particularly dramatic case of this happened in the Brazilian second division in 2005, known as "Battle of the Afflicted", due to both the venue name and how it was tension all-around: Grêmio, a traditional team relegated shamefully the previous year, visited Náutico for the final game of a four-team group, top two receiving promotion to the top level. At the 70th minute, Grêmio already one player down, receives a controversial penalty (the ball hit a defender's elbow) that leads to a second red card. The team surrounds the ref to complaining... and two are expelled, leaving Grêmio with the bare minimum of seven players. Chaos ensued, with the whole thing being interrupted for 25 minutes, meaning that if the game was restarted, there would hardly be any time for anything other than the penalty. And Náutico managed to have the kick saved, with Grêmio's counter-attack resulting in a goal that gave them the title!
  • During the 2022 UEFA Champions League semifinals, the first leg between Manchester City and Real Madrid had ended 4-3, meaning that Real would have to win by 2 goals in order to reach the final. Madrid plays an aggressive game, but is unable to score a goal - and then Manchester City scores in minute 73, meaning that now Madrid has to score twice to reach the extra time. Time continues, but no matter what they do Madrid is unable to score... until minute 90, where Rodrygo Goes scores a goal and ties the game. Manchester is thrown off their game - and a minute later Rodrygo scores again, tying the overall score and forcing extra time, where Madrid finally comes back to win 3-1.
  • The 2022 World Cup Final between Argentina and France was tied in regulation and overtime. One desperate save from Argentinian goalkeeper Emiliano "Dibu" Martínez at point-blank range with less than a minute remaining resulted in the game being decided in a penalty shootout. Argentina won the shootout 4-2.

    Auto Racing 
  • Formula One. Lewis Hamilton won the 2008 championship from Felipe Massa on the last corner of the last lap of the last race. Going into the final race in Brazil, Hamilton held a seven-point lead in the drivers' championship over Massa, meaning that if Massa won he would need to finish fifth or higher to claim the title - a sixth-place finish, and the resulting points tie, would give it to Massa by virtue of number of races won. After running wide on lap 69 as a result of a very wet track, Hamilton fell to sixth, where he stayed as Massa crossed the line to take the race win. As the Ferrari pit crew and the crowds celebrated what they thought was Massa claiming the championship at his home race, Hamilton was still trying to fight his way past Sebastian Vettel to retake fifth, when— "Is that Glock? Is that Glock going slowly?" Timo Glock, who was still on worn-out dry tyres on the wet track, had slowed dramatically, and Hamilton passed him in the last corner, finished fifth and won the championship.
  • The 2011 Canadian Grand Prix was the longest race in F1 history time-wise, as various stoppages for poor weather stretched its duration out to 4 hours, 4 minutes. Jenson Button, who had been last when the final stoppage occurred, put in an astonishing performance after the restart to climb his way up to second by the start of the final lap. With a few corners to go, and Button closing in, reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel made an uncharacteristic error and span wide, allowing Button through to win and seal one of the greatest performances of his entire career.
  • The Indianapolis 500 lead has changed hands on the last lap on two occasions (shown below). Seven other races (1982, 1992, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2014, and 2015) were won by margins of less than a second (not counting victories under yellow).
    • 2006: Sam Hornish was in second behind Marco Andretti with two laps to go. On lap 199, Hornish tried to squeeze past Andretti in turn 3, but had to back off and lost nearly a full second. On the final lap, Hornish caught up (considering the laps take barely 40 seconds, a heck of a piece of driving by itself), then passed Andretti on the final straightaway about one second before crossing the finish line. Watch the clip here, and count the number of times the announcers say "Marco's gonna win this thing!". Marco Andretti's comment? "Second's nothing."
    • 2011: Rookie driver JR Hildebrand inherited the lead on fuel strategy three laps from the end when cars ahead had to pit. He made it all the way to the last corner when he misjudged a pass on a slow backmarker, drifted wide into the wall and wiped the right side wheels off his car. As he agonizingly slithered towards the finish line he was passed by Dan Wheldon in the final few hundred metres. By tragic irony Hildebrand and Wheldon would be involved in a massive crash in the last race of the year; Hildebrand walked away unscathed but Wheldon died from head injuries. A further irony is that Wheldon only ran a part-time schedule that year, having lost his drive with the Panther Racing team - to Hildebrand.
  • The 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans was the first time that the loophole-abusing Porsche 917 was entered, and throughout most of the race, the sheer speed of the Porsches was difficult to compete with. However, the untested cars were unreliable and attrition set in. The race was eventually contested between a fast prototype Porsche with failing brakes and the then-overweight and underpowered Ford GT 40 driven by rookie pilot Jacky Ickx. The last hour of the race had the two cars swapping places constantly, and ended up with Ickx's GT 40 winning by a scant 120 metres after 24 hours of racing. Ickx also won the safety battle, having willingly started last to properly secure his safety belts and was almost immediately vindicated for it via an early fatal crash by John Woolfe in one of the 917s.
    • Le Mans final laps are usually parade laps as the winning car is often laps ahead by the finish. Other close finishes at Le Mans that have taken place at full speed include in 1983 when the two Rothmans Porsches were 17 seconds apart at the line. The lead car had a broken engine and it seized practically as it crossed the line to win. In 2011 the gap between the winning Audi R18 (the only one left after collisions with slower Ferraris wrecked the other two) and 2nd placed Peugeot was 13.8 seconds, or about the length of the last few corners.
    • The 2016 race was all set to be Toyota's first victory... until their lead car broke down just after starting what would have been its final lap, and the second-placed Porsche 919 came screaming past with three minutes left on the race clock. The Toyota began to slow halfway round its penultimate lap with a turbocharger problem so unexpected that the driver of the other Toyota thought it was slowing up for a team photo-op at the finish. With a minute's lead over the Porsche the Toyota still made it to the line first so had the problem risen only a lap later they would have still won.
  • The 1976 Daytona 500 went into the last lap with Richard Petty and David Pearson running 1st and 2nd respectively. Pearson passed Petty for the lead on the backstretch, but as the two entered the 4th and final turn, Petty passed Pearson back. Approaching the finish line, the two cars made contact and both hit the retaining wall before spinning out onto the infield grass. Petty's damaged car ended up stalling a mere 150 feet from the finish line. As members of Petty's pit crew ran over to try and get him re-started, Pearson limped his equally-wrecked car past Petty and over the line for the victory. Both drivers had been so far ahead of the rest of the field that Petty was able to eventually re-start his car and, despite the delay, cross the finish ahead of the 3rd place driver (Benny Parsons) for second place.
  • Tony Stewart won the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship by 1.3 seconds in the last race of the year. Stewart won the race ahead of Carl Edwards second, tying the two on points with Stewart getting it by virtue of having 5 wins (all in the 10-race Chase) to Edwards' 1 (from the third race of the season at Las Vegas, the same race Roush teammate Matt Kenseth won en route to the 2003 title believed to be responsible for the Chase's implementation in the first place).
  • Talladega Superspeedway is known for this in NASCAR, because the finish line is past the pit exit, unlike Daytona where the finish line is in the tri-oval. Numerous races there have been decided by a last lap pass in the tri-oval area.
  • In possibly the most dramatic finish in NASCAR history, Ricky Craven won the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 over Kurt Busch by 0.002 seconds, having caught up to Busch in turn four on the last lap.
  • The 2011 British Superbike Championship came down to the last corner of the last lap between riders Tommy Hill and John Hopkins. The two riders battled nose-to-tail for the last two laps, the lead changed hands six times on the last lap and Hill beat Hopkins to the line and the title by 000.6 seconds. Needless to say it was quite a finish.
  • Professional drag racing is all about this, particularly in the top tiers of high-powered nitro-fueled cars. Winning margins measured in hundredths or even thousandths of seconds are not uncommon.
  • In MotoGP, one race had to be decided via a tiebreaker because the first two riders crossed the finish line in a dead-heat. Both Hector Faubel and Johann Zarco finished on the exact same time in the 125cc class race at the 2011 German motorcycle Grand Prix a the Sachsenring, forcing the MotoGP officials to go to the tiebreakers and ultimately declared Faubel as the winner as of the two riders, Faubel had the faster fastest lap.
  • The Formula E race at Mexico City in 2019 came down to the wire as Pascal Wehrlein of Mahindra was running out of usable energy in his car whilst Lucas di Grassi's Audi was hot on his tails on the final lap. The race (which was timed for 45 minutes + 1 lap) had gone on for one lap longer than expected, which already caught out both Nissan drivers, who ran out of juice on the final lap and led to some... colorful language rant in French by their driver Sébastien Buemi. Coming out of the final corner, Wehrlein's car ran out of usable energy and di Grassi took advantage of it by pulling his car to the right to win by just a few meters on the line.
  • Apart from the infamous 2016 Le Mans incident, Toyota's other racing programs also had the misfortune of having been on the receiving end of this twice:
    • In the 1998 World Rally Championship season's final rally at Great Britain, Mitsubishi's Tommi Mäkinen had his championship hopes seemingly dashed when he retired on the first lap of the rally. Toyota driver Carlos Sainz Sr. was about to lock the championship after arriving in the final stage of the rally in fourth place and he was still in fourth in the final kilometer of the rally when the engine of his Toyota Corolla WRC failed with just 300 meters to go, automatically handing the title to Mäkinen.
    • At the 2020 Super GT season finale at Fuji Speedway, the KeePer TOM'S Toyota Supra team were dominating the race and was on track to secure the title for both them and driver Ryo Hirakawa when they ran out of fuel on the last corner of the last lap of the race. This allowed championship rival Team Kunimitsu's Raybrig NSX to steal the title on the final stretch to the line, giving them the perfect Bittersweet Ending for their long-time sponsor Raybrig who exited the series at the conclusion of the 2020 season after sponsoring the team for 24 consecutive seasons.

  • In baseball, since the teams take turns with the visitors batting in the top of the inning and the home team batting in the bottom, a Down to the Last Play moment can really only happen to the home team. This is often referred to as a "walkoff" – originally to signify the losing pitcher having to "walk off" the mound alone and (for the moment) unloved, but now the term is more focused on the home team (and their fans) walking off the field in celebration once the winning run scores.
  • Ten World Series have ended in this way, with the home team winning the deciding game on a walkoff. However, four of those were in games before a Game 7, so those Series would have continued if the road team had won that game. Six World Series have been won in true Down to the Last Play fashion, with the home team winning in the last at-bat of a winner-take-all final game:
    • In 1912, the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Giants on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 8 (the Series used a best-of-nine format at the time). Game 2 was called on account of darkness with the game tied.
    • In 1924 the Washington Senators beat the New York Giants on an RBI double which bounced over the New York third baseman's head in the bottom of the 12th inning.
    • Possibly the most famous example is the 1960 World Series, which was the first World Series to end with a true Down To The Last Play home run. Bill Mazeroski's homer on the second pitch in the bottom of the 9th gave the Pittsburgh Pirates a victory over the New York Yankees.
    • In 1991, Gene Larkin's single in the 10th won the Series for the Minnesota Twins over the Atlanta Braves.
    • In 1997, Edgar Rentería's single in the 11th won the Series for the Florida Marlinsnote  over the Cleveland Indiansnote .
    • In 2001, the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in the bottom of the 9th when Luis Gonzalez floated a pop fly over Derek Jeter's head and into short left field.
    • In 2014, the Kansas City Royals had Alex Gordon on third as the tying run in the bottom of the 9th. A phenomenal Series-long performance by Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner was arguably all that stopped Kansas City, as it ended in a foul-out by Salvador Perez.
  • However, all six of the World Series victories listed above came with the game tied before the last play, so in each of them the game would have continued if the batter had made an out. In fact, in the history of baseball's postseason dating back to 1903, only one postseason series has truly come Down to the Last Play—a hit by the home team, in the bottom of the last inning of the decisive game, with the home team trailing with two outs, which turned defeat into victory. That was the 1992 National League Championship Series between the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates, in which Francisco Cabrera of the Braves drove a single to left in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 7, scoring two runs, winning the game 3–2 and winning the series 4–3.
  • If you expand Down to the Last Play to include games where the comeback fails, where the home team has a chance to win at the end but does not, this section would be longer. One famous example is the 1962 World Series. The Yankees were clinging to a 1–0 lead over the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 when Matty Alou led off with a single. Next came two outs and then Willie Mays' double into the right field corner, giving the Giants runners at second and third. The next batter, Willie McCovey, hit a screaming line drive—right to Yankee Bobby Richardson at second, who caught it to win the game and the Series.
    • This was lampshaded for the next several months in Peanuts where Charlie Brown would shout "Why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball 3 feet higher?" (or even one foot)
  • Many individual games, of course, have been won in Down to the Last Play moments. Some notable examples are listed below.
  • The only World Series besides 1960 to end on a home run was in 1993. Toronto won four games to two when Joe Carter's three-run homer in the bottom of the 9th won Game 6 8–6.
    Blue Jays radio announcer Tom Cheek: Touch 'em all, Joe! You'll never hit a bigger home run in your life!
  • In the 1986 World Series the Boston Red Sox, leading the Series three games to two, led 5–3 going to the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6, and were three outs from a championship. The first two New York Met batters made quick outs. The Shea Stadium scoreboard operator prematurely flashed the message "Congratulations World Champion Boston Red Sox". Then everything fell apart. Three straight singles cut it to a one-run game and put the tying run at third. A new reliever was brought in, and a wild pitch allowed the tying run to score and the winning run to advance to second. Then, an infamous error, as veteran Boston first baseman Bill Buckner let the ball get past him, allowing the winning run to score. The Mets then won Game 7note  and the championship.
    • However, even in that game, the error came after the game had already been tied. The only time in postseason history that an error directly led to a team losing a game that they would have won right then and there if the play had been made came in 2009, when with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in game 2 of the NLDS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cardinals ahead 2–1, Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday dropped a line drive off the bat of James Loney, allowing the inning to continue. The Dodgers went on to score twice in the inning and won the game, eventually sweeping the series.
      • This was not the first time that Holliday had been involved in such a moment. In 2007, he was a member of the Colorado Rockies, who had been buried deep in the NL wild card standings when they went on an 11-game winning streak, but when that streak was snapped in the third-to-last game of the season, they found themselves two games back with two left to play, needing to win both of their last two games and have San Diego lose both of their last two just to have a chance at a one-game playoff. (The New York Mets were also tied with the Rockies and were just one game back in their division, so the tiebreakers had the potential to get even more complicated.) San Diego entered the ninth inning of their penultimate game ahead 3–2, but with two outs and two strikes, Tony Gwynn Jr.note  hit a game-tying triple for the Milwaukee Brewers, who won the game in 11 innings (a walk-off) to give the Rockies life. The Rockies would end up winning their last two and the Brewers beat the Padres again the next day, setting up a one-game playoff in Colorado that was tied at 6 at the end of nine innings. San Diego scored two runs in the top of the 13th, but Colorado led off with two straight doubles, followed by Holliday hitting a game-tying triple and then scoring on a sacrifice fly in which he may not have ever actually touched home plate. Just to add to the madness, statistics compiled in one-game playoffs are counted as regular season statistics. Holliday's game-tying hit was his second RBI of Game 163, giving him a total of 137 on the season—one more than Philadelphia's Ryan Howard, whose 136 led the National League through 162 games.
  • Kirk Gibson of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who was dealing with injuries to both legs that caused him to limp visibly as he walked to the plate, hit a two-run homer—on a three-ball, two-strike count with two outs—in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series to beat the Oakland A's 5–4. The victory propelled the underdog Dodgers to a shocking five-game victory over the heavily favored Athletics.
    Vin Scully, announcing the game for NBC: High fly ball into right field, she is... GONE! (after a two-minute pause, Scully continues) In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!
    CBS Radio announcer Jack Buck: Gibson swings, and a high fly ball to deep right field. It's gonna be a home run! Unbelievable! A home run for Gibson! And the Dodgers have won the game, 5-4! I don't believe...what I just saw! I don't believe what I just saw! Is this really happening...?
    Don Drysdale, announcing the game for the Dodgers' radio broadcast: [Dennis] Eckersley working out of the stretch. Here's the 3-2 pitch. And a drive hit to right field. WAY BACK! THIS BALL... IS GONE! (after a nearly two-minute pause) This crowd will not stop! They can't believe the ending! And, this time, Mighty Casey did ''not'' strike out!
  • The New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers played a special three-game tiebreaker for the 1951 National League championship after finishing the season with identical 96–58 records. In the bottom of the ninth of the third game, trailing 4–2, Bobby Thomson hit a three-run homer off of Ralph Branca to win the NL pennant. Thomson's homer is remembered to this day as The Shot Heard 'Round the World.
    • Fifty-three years later, in the 2014 National League Championship Series, Travis Ishikawa hit a 3-run walk-off home run to lift the Giants (now in San Francisco) over the St. Louis Cardinals and send the Giants to their third World Series in five years.
  • One of the weirdest Down to the Last Play moments in history was Merkle's Boner (ha ha ha, stop laughing), which happened on September 23, 1908. The Giants should have beaten the Cubs on a walkoff single in the bottom of the ninth inning, but Fred Merkle, who was on first base, failed to advance to second. The Cubs retrieved the ball, which may or may not have gone into the stands, and threw to second base for a force out of Merkle. The game was called on account of darkness immediately after. Naturally, this proved crucial, as the Cubs and Giants wound up tied for first place and the game had to be replayed. The Cubs beat the Giants in the makeup game and won the pennant.
    • The entire story of that play was that the rule that the Cubs enforced was traditionally not enforced at the end of games back in those days, due to fans normally storming the field after such a walkoff. The Cubs themselves tried the same trick a few weeks before, only to have the umpire say that he did not recall whether the runner had touched second and thus the walkoff stood. The ump promised the Cubs he'd watch and call it the next time he saw it... which happened to be the Merkle game.
  • Game 6 of the 2011 World Series provided several remarkable moments.
    • The Texas Rangers, seeking their first championship in forty years of existence (fifty if you count their previous 10 years as the Washington Senators), led the St. Louis Cardinals three games to two, and led 7–5 in the bottom of the ninth inning. With two outs and two runners on base, David Freese fell behind the count 1–2, leaving the Rangers one strike away from victory and a championship. Freese hit the ball over Nelson Cruz's head and off the right-field wall for a two-run triple to tie the game at 7.
    • After Yadier Molina flied out to end the ninth, the Rangers proceeded to take a 9–7 lead in the top of the 10th on a homer by Josh Hamilton. The Cardinals came up in the bottom of the 10th and went single, single, sac bunt to advance the runners, and RBI groundout to make the score 9–8 with two outs. Lance Berkman batted next and fell behind the count 1–2, leaving the Rangers again one strike away from victory and a championship. After the next pitch was a ball, Berkman lined a single to center field, again tying the game, this time at 9.
    • Finally, after the Rangers failed to score in the top of the 11th, Freese had his second hero moment in three innings, leading off the bottom of the 11th with a home run to center that won the game 10-9. The Cardinals won Game 7 and the championship the next day.
  • June 23, 1984: Bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, the Chicago Cubs were trailing the St. Louis Cardinals, their hated rivals, 9–8 and Bruce Sutter, the best closer in the game at the time and a future Hall of Famer, was on the mound. Up walks another future Hall of Famer, Ryne Sandberg, who proceeded to drive a home run off Sutter to tie it at 9. In the 10th, the Cardinals would score twice to make it 11–9; the Cubs were able to get a runner on base, but were once again down to their final out when up walked Sandberg again, again to face Sutter... and again he saved the Cubs by driving a two-run homer into the bleachers. The Cubs won the game in 11 and cement their claim to be contenders in 1984 after being known as "Lovable Losers" for decades beforehand.
  • The 2016 World Series not only went to Game 7, it went to extra innings, along with a rain delay right after the ninth inning ended, just to add to the drama. However, it also averted Every Year They Fizzle Out for the Chicago Cubs, who won the game 8-7 in the 10th inning, ending a 108-year-long drought between World Series titles.
  • On July 27, 2017, Toronto Blue Jays batter Steve Pearce pulled off a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 10th to beat the Oakland Athletics 8-4. However, just 3 days later against the Angels, Pearce proceeded to do so again in the 9th for an 11-10 victory (also notably an "ultimate" grand slam, since it eliminated the entire deficit). He is only one of three batters in MLB history to have hit two walk-off grand slams in a single season.
  • In a non-US example, during a quarterfinals match up at the 2018 Japanese High School Baseball Championship or the Summer Koshien, the biggest competition in Japanese sports, Omi Brotherhood High School clung onto a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, Kanaashi Nogyo High School loaded the bases with no outs, and won the game on a 2-run suicide squeeze. Kanaashi Nogyo would eventually make it all the way to the finals, becoming the first team in over 100 years from Akita Prefecture to make the finals. The previous time a team from Akita reached the finals? 1915, the first year of Koshien.
  • A very rare example of the home team—or more precisely, the team hosting the game—being the victim of a walk-off homer came in the Morgantown Regional of the 2019 NCAA Division I tournament. The regional host, the West Virginia Mountaineers, faced the Texas A&M Aggies in an elimination game—with the Aggies designated by tournament rules as the home team for said game. With WVU up 10–7 with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, the bases loaded, and a 3–2 count, A&M's Bryce Blaum hit a walk-off ultimate grand slam.

  • Basketball lends itself to these moments quite often; it is common for a team to go from defeat to victory on the last shot.
  • In what may be the most shining example, the 1983 NC State Wolfpack's improbable run that earned them the nickname "Cardiac Pack".note  Ranked 5th in the ACC (which consisted of 9 teams at the time), they had to win the conference tournament to even qualify for the NCAAs. They proceeded to win against Duke 71–70 on free throws with time expired. Forced double overtime on last-second shots each time against North Carolina before finally winning 91–84, and again on a last second shot against Virginia 81–78. They then proceeded to the NCAA Championship game by winning 4 of their 5 games by 2 points or less. In the final game, they managed a 30-foot heave as time was running out, that was caught and dunked for a win as time ran out. This remains the only pre-64-team NCAA tournament image still shown as part of 'great moments' intros. Last second shots in 7 of 9 games to win a title!
    • This was covered in an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary in 2013, the 30th anniversary of the event.
  • An infamous example is the basketball final at the 1972 Olympics. When the time expired, the USA had an 50–49 lead against the Soviets. However, the referees added three seconds back to the clock on the direct order of the head of FIBA, who had no authority to do so (the FIBA head claimed the Soviets had attempted to call time out prior to the last free throw). After the Soviet shot failed, the referees added three MORE seconds back to the clock due to an error in restarting the clock. In this three seconds—on their third chance to win the game—a Soviet player scored, winning the team the gold medal. The Americans refused to accept the silver and filed a protest, but it was denied. It was the first loss ever for the US Olympic basketball team. To this day, the American players from that game still refuse to accept the silver medals, and at least one has left it in his will that his family can never accept the medal after he dies.
  • A 2004 playoff game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers, who had combined to win the last 5 titles and had each swept the other out of the way during that time, contained two improbable last-second shots. First the Spurs, trailing by a point with 5.4 seconds left, tried a handoff screen from Tim Duncan to Manu Ginóbili. Ginóbili was cut off from receiving the ball, so Duncan just had to just turn around, take a quick dribble, and throw the ball up from the top of the key. He was way off balance and actually fell on his back yet somehow the shot swished through. Now the Lakers had to score in 0.4 seconds or lose. Derek Fisher, who received the inbounds pass, had to grab it, spin around in mid-air, and shoot, all in one quick motion, because the clock starts the instant it touches any player. It also went right through the net, giving LA the game and a 3–2 series lead, cementing Fisher's reputation as one of the best clutch shooters ever, and leaving Duncan's shot as one of the best all-time clutch plays that didn't result in a win. As Shaq said, "One lucky shot deserves another." Jaw Drop.
  • The Spurs were victim of an even worse case in game 6 of the 2013 Finals. San Antonio was guaranteeing a title over the Miami Heat, the yellow tape to cordon off the floor had already been brought out. And then Ray Allen shoots with 5 seconds remaining and the 3 pointer goes in to force overtime. Which Miami wins, (making the fickle fans who left as the team lagged behind frustrated as the guards wouldn't let them back!) and game 7 clinched a Heat title.
  • David Lee, New York Knicks. Tips it in with 0.1 seconds.
  • In Game 5 of the 1987 NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons all Detroit had to do was inbound the ball to win. But Boston forward Larry Bird stole the pass and while falling out-of-bounds passed to guard Dennis Johnson for the game-winning layup with one second left.
  • The University of Virginia Cavaliers tend to do this a lot. There's a reason fans sometimes call them "Cardiac Cavs":
    "Perrantes to inbound, Gill is fouled out. Inbound pass to Hall. Hall's into the frontcourt, feeds it up. Thompson, for the win, launches the three... IT'S GOOD!!! HE HITS IT OFF THE BACKBOARD!!! And Virginia, with the miracle finish here in Winston-Salem! Are you kidding me?!
    • at Duke, 2016: On the other end, Virginia looked prepared to win at Duke for the first time since 1995. The Cavaliers' Malcolm Brogdon made a basket with seconds left... enough seconds for Duke's Grayson Allen to make his own buzzer-beater. It may have been a travel, but it counted, and Duke won.
    • You think Wake Forest in 2016 is something? That's nothing compared to March 1, 2018 at Louisville. Virginia had erased most of a 13-point second-half deficit, but was still down 66–62 to the Cardinals with Ty Jerome set to shoot three free throws, having been fouled on a three-point attempt... with 9 tenths left. What happens from there?
      • Jerome hit his first two free throws, then deliberately missed the third. However... the Cavaliers were called for a lane violation, giving Louisville the ball behind its own basket.
      • The Cardinals' Deng Adel tried to inbound, but apparently forgot a basic basketball rule and ran the baseline for a traveling violation.The rule  That gave the Cavaliers the ball under Louisville's basket, with the same 9 tenths left.
      • Which was enough time for De'Andre Hunter to catch the inbounds pass and put up a three... that went in off the backboard, giving the Cavs an utterly improbable 67–66 win.
  • In a 2010 game between Georgia Tech and Maryland, Georgia Tech scores the go-ahead basket with 3 seconds left on the clock. Maryland star PG Greivis Vásquez drives it down the court and makes what appears to be the game-winning basket from half-court, only for it to be called back because Maryland coach Gary Williams called a timeout with 1.5 seconds left. The game looks all-but-squandered until the ball gets inbounded to Maryland's Cliff Tucker, who promptly hits the game-winning shot.
  • Maccabi Tel Aviv has more than one example of this, but probably the most memorable one is the "Žalgiris Miracle": Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Žalgiris Kaunas, the last game in group G of the 2003/4 Euroleague Top 16, which ended up being the game that decides which team wins the group and qualify to the Final 4. With Žalgiris leading by 5 points with only a few seconds left on the clock, it seemed to be all over for Maccabi. Maccabi scored a quick 2 pointer and made a desperate foul on one of Žalgiris players. Not only does the player miss both free throws, but one of Žalgiris players entered the key too early, stopping the clock and giving Maccabi the ball with 2 seconds remaining. Then this happens, sending the game into overtime and giving Maccabi a huge morale boost, with which they proceed to win the game and eventually, the Euroleague title.
  • A high school basketball example that made national news for its sheer improbability: 2005 Minnesota state championship game, Eastview vs. Hopkins. In overtime, Eastview scored with 2.5 seconds left to go up 2. Hopkins threw the ball the length of the court. One of their players, Blake Hoffarber, fell on the floor, the ball bounced his way, and he grabbed the ball and threw it at the basket, while sitting down on the floor. It went in to tie the game. It has to be seen to be believed.
  • A couple years later, in the 2008 Big Ten Conference Men's Basketball Tournament, #6 Minnesota was leading #3 Indiana 57–55 at Conseco Fieldhouse with 3.4 seconds left. Eric Gordon was at the line with a chance to tie it. He missed the first and intentionally missed the second. Indiana got the rebound. D.J. White was fouled on the putback with 3.1 seconds left and had a chance to give Indiana the lead, but he missed the free throw. He then got fouled again on the rebound with 1.5 seconds left. He split the pair to make it 58–57 Indiana. After a timeout, Travis Busch threw a baseball pass almost the length of the court. It was caught by... Blake Hoffarber, who turned and tossed up a shot with his left hand, which went through as time expired.
  • In the 2010 Big Ten basketball tournament, Michigan led Ohio State 68–66 with 2.2 seconds left and the Buckeyes needing to drive the length of the court. What happened next proved beyond a shadow of a doubt who the National Player of the Year was.
  • The Findlay Oilers won the 2009 NCAA Division II National College Basketball championship by defeating the Cal Poly Pomona Broncos on a buzzer-beater three-pointer.
  • Butler's Gordon Hayward tried it against Duke in the 2010 NCAA men's championship game with a half-court shot, but it rimmed out and Duke won.
  • The Chicago Bulls beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 in 1989. Michael Jordan hits the series-winner at the buzzer. Famously known as The Shot.
  • Hill to Laettner, turn, swish.
  • The last 40 seconds of the 2011 Unicaja-Real Madrid must be seen to be believed:.
  • Former UConn standout and longtime Seattle Storm star Sue Bird has a long list of last-minute, clutch shots— from the 2001 Big East tournament championship game after Notre Dame had tied the game with 5 seconds left and she drives down the length of the court for the winning shot, to the 2010 WNBA Playoffs, where successive game-winning baskets in the Western Conference Finals Game 2 and the WNBA Finals Game 1 gave her the media nickname of "Big Shot Bird".
    • Matter of fact, a sportswriter who had covered the UConn women in 2001 (though he was assigned elsewhere for the Notre Dame game in question) published a book on that Big East title game 10 years later. Its title invokes this trope: Bird at the Buzzer.
  • Watford for the win...
  • August 13, 2007: Erin Thorn who is playing for the New York Liberty at the time, landed a jump shot which assured her team victory over the then-league-champion Detroit Shock in a game the Liberty needed to win in order to even have a chance at making the playoffs.
  • Arizona vs. Cincinnati, February 10, 1996: The game is tied at 76 with just a couple seconds left and Arizona's Miles Simon gets his hands on the ball. Just before the buzzer, he throws up a desperation 3/4ths court shot that, by some miracle, goes in. Arizona wins 79–76, giving Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson his 500th career win.
  • #1 Arizona vs. USC, March 6, 1998. Jason "The Jet" Terry hits a runner with 6.9 seconds left in OT to give #1 Arizona a 90–88 lead over 7–19 USC. But Adam Spanich gets the ball with 2.8 seconds left and promptly fires a 3...
  • In the 1988 NCAA Tournament Round of 32, Vanderbilt faced heavily favored Pittsburgh. Vanderbilt's Barry Goheen hit a 3 with 5 seconds left to make it 67–66 after Pittsburgh's Jason Matthews hit two free throws with 12 seconds left. After Charles Smith hit two free throws with 4 seconds left, Goheen took the ball upcourt, then hit a 3 at the buzzer to force OT. Vanderbilt won 80–74 to advance to the Sweet 16.
  • In the 2013 New York state Section 1 Class AA high school championships, with Mount Vernon leading New Rochelle 60–58, Khalil Edney's in-bounds pass with 2.9 seconds left is intercepted by a Mount Vernon player, who heaves the ball up into the air to kill the clock—only it comes down in Edney's hands with enough time for him to toss up a half-court shot, which goes in and, after a lengthy video review, is ultimately counted, giving New Rochelle the 61–60 win.
  • In 2014's NCAA Division III playoffs, The University of Texas at Dallas Comets hosted the regional for their division. The final of said regional pitted them up against Whitworth, a school from Washington state. The game went to overtime off of a Whitworth basket to close out regulation, and UTD fell behind by seven early in the overtime. They came roaring back thanks to good free throw shooting and poor free throws by Whitworth, making it 77–75 with 9.6 seconds left to play. UTD fouled the inbounder, stopping the clock with 7.1 left and forcing a one-and-one free throw, which was missed. With the final 7.1 seconds, UTD dribbled the ball upcourt, and then put up a shot at 0.4 seconds left.
  • Colonial Athletic Associationnote  men's semifinals, William & Mary vs. Hofstra, March 8, 2015. The game went to double overtime, so there were three "last plays". Eventually, W&M's Dixon hit a three-pointer to win. The highlights are here.
  • The Villanova Wildcats defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels to win the 2016 NCAA Men's Division I championship with, for the first time in tournament history, a 3-point buzzer beater. On the North Carolina "Team Stream" broadcast of the game being broadcast by TNT, the commentators almost immediately fell silent, stunned by the last-second victory.
  • The 2018 Division I Women's Final Four featured not one, not two, but all three games featuring this trope. In the first semifinal, the always-dominant UConn Huskies managed to force overtime after trailing by five with just 21 seconds left after Kia Nurse stole the ball and scored the game-tying layup with 10 seconds left (though they actually forced another turnover and couldn't get the game-winner in regulation), but Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale broke a tie in the closing seconds of overtime to dispatch the undefeated Huskies. The second semifinal was just as intense, with Louisville scoring to take a 3-point lead with 11 seconds left, Mississippi State tying it up with 6 left, and Louisville putting up a potential buzzer-beater that didn't fall; sadly, the overtime wasn't quite so intense, with State handily beating the Cardinals. The championship game was the only game of the Final Four to end in regulation... with another buzzer-beater by Ogunbowale, this time from 3-point range, giving the Fighting Irish the title.
  • In Game 7 of the 2019 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers, Kawhi Leonard received an inbounds pass from Marc Gasol with 4.2 seconds on the clock and a 90-90 tie. Then, while defended by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons he launched a fadeaway buzzer beater which bounced on the rim 4 times before going in to become the first Game 7 game-winning buzzer-beater in NBA history. The usually reserved Kawhi roared in celebration, Embiid broke down in tears while walking to the locker room and the Raps would go on to face the Milwaukee Bucks in the East Finals. For added drama points 18 years earlier, Raptors legend Vince Carter shot from the very same spot (off-balance jumper from the short corner), in the very same situation (Game 7 of the East Semifinals against the Sixers) and missed, which allowed the Allen Iverson-led Sixers to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals... and face the Bucks. And the Raps would also beat Milwaukee and go to the Finals against a juggernaut, star-studded, heavily favored team from the West Coast (Lakers in 2001, Warriors in 2019). Unlike Philly, however, Toronto managed to snatch the "chip" from the Golden State Goliath in 6 games, their first in franchise history. If it were an ending of a sports movie, critics would call it cliched and contrived.
  • The Christopher Newport University Captains won the 2023 NCAA Division III men's championship over the Mount Union Purple Raiders, 74-72, on a layup at the buzzer.
  • Game 6 of the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals saw the Boston Celtics dominate for the first half, only for the Miami Heat to push back for much of the second half until, with three seconds left on the clock, the Heat landed three free throws to push ahead of the Celtics 103-102, forcing the Celtics to rush to the other side of the court just to get a chance to score. Marcus Smart then took his shot, only to brick it; fortunately, Derrick White just barely tipped it back into the basket with literal milliseconds to spare. Even the referees were unsure whether it counted or not, but they let it count, earning the Celtics a seventh game at home after trailing 0-3 for the first three games of the series.

    Gridiron Football 


  • Any NFL game that goes to overtime is this by definition because, unlike other sports/leagues, NFL overtime is a modified "sudden death" system, meaning certain types of scoring will trigger an immediate game end. The various ways that overtime can end are as follows:
    • If a team scores a touchdown or safety, the game is over and that team wins.note 
    • If the first team to possess the ball scores a field goal, the other team gets one possession to respond and either win it with a touchdown or re-tie it with a field goal of their own. If the second team fails to score before losing the ball, the game is over and the first team wins. This will still create a Down To The Last Play situation, since the second team will fight to the last play to avert this outcome.
    • If the first team fails to score on their first possession or if both teams score field goals on their respective first possessions, then it becomes full sudden-death overtime and the first team to score any points after that (even a field goal) wins. Starting with the 2022 season, in the postseason only, both teams are guaranteed at least one offensive possession, even if Team A scores a touchdown on their opening possession.
    • In regular-season games, if the teams remain tied when the overtime period ends, in which case the game is declared a tie. note  But in most cases, even a tie game will be fought down to the last play, because whichever team has the ball in the final seconds will fight to the last play to get a win (or to get a tie if they're trailing). This doesn't apply in the postseason, since a tie result in the post-season would be game-breaking; in those games, a game that's tied at the end of the overtime period will go into a second overtime period and so on until one team wins. Double-overtime games are rare — only six have been played since overtime rules were instituted, most recently in the 2012 season — and there has never been a triple-OT game.
  • The 1958 NFL Championship Game, also known as "The Greatest Game Ever Played", one of the first nationally televised football games ever, was first sent into over time (the first time this had ever happened in an NFL game) on a last second field goal by Steve Myhra, then won by Colts running back Alan Ameche one yard plunge.
  • The "Miracle at the Meadowlands" in 1978 involved the Philadelphia Eagles playing The Rival New York Giants. Down 17–12, the Eagles turned the ball over on downs deep in Giants territory, giving the Giants an apparent victory since all the Giants needed to do was run out the clock. However, to do this required running one more play.note  The Eagles were not content to give up despite their seemingly hopeless situation. The Giants' offensive coordinator called a stock rush play to protect the QB from the Eagles, who ran a full-scale 11-man blitz to provoke a fumble. Instead, the play call resulted in a fumble that Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards promptly picked up and returned for the game winning touchdown. This result did two things; it immediately ended the career of that offensive coordinator, and it completely changed the way the final few plays of football are played with a special victory formation designed to specifically avoid another such "miracle".
    • 32 years later the Eagles and Giants met again in the Giants' new stadium. Once again the Eagles appeared to be in a hopeless situation, down 31–10 with only 8:17 left. However a series of quick scores left the game tied with only 14 seconds left and the Giants forced to punt the ball on 4th down. The punter, Matt Dodge, was instructed to punt the ball out of bounds to prevent Eagles return man DeSean Jackson, any chance to run the ball back for a touchdown. Unfortunately the punt did not go out of bounds and after initially bobbling the ballnote , Jackson ran it back for a touchdown. Since time expired well before Jackson entered the end zone, he because the first person in NFL history to score a walk-off punt return touchdown. Failure to kick the ball out of bounds ended the NFL career of Matt Dodge before his rookie season was even over.
    • And 13 years after that in the season opener of Monday Night Football, the other occupant of the Giants' new stadium, the New York Jets, pulled off one of these. On the fourth play from scrimmage against the Buffalo Bills, Jets QB Aaron Rodgers suffered a torn Achilles. However, the Jets managed to keep the Bills in check, turning over the Bills' star QB Josh Allen four times (three INTs, one lost fumble), and had a 16–13 lead until the Bills' kicker connected on a 50-yard field goal that bounced off the upright and over the crossbar to send the game to overtime. After the Bills went three-and-out on the first possession of overtime, they punted... and Xavier Gipson ran it back to the house for a 22–16 win.
  • The 1980 Cleveland Browns were known as "The Kardiac Kids" for having several games decided by this trope.
  • The 2003 Carolina Panthers got a similar nickname with "The Cardiac Cats" due to their habit of winning several close games that year. Starting quarterback Jake Delhomme led seven game winning drives, five come from behind wins, all but two of their wins and losses were decided by one score, they had one of the ultra rare double overtime games which they won, and would have almost certainly forced the first ever Super Bowl to go to overtime if John Kasay doesn't kick the last kickoff out of bounds.
  • The 2001 Chicago Bears had their own incredible series of comeback wins that year, with two games in particular notable for how they finished exactly the same way; safety Mike Brown intercepting a tipped pass and returning it for a touchdown in overtime. To wit:
    • In their matchup against the San Francisco 49er's, the Bears were down at one point 28-9. With less than 5 minutes to go and now down 31-16, the Bears score two touchdowns, and convert a two-point conversion to tie the game. In OT, Jeff Garcia's pass to Terrell Owens is bobbled by Owens, dropping the ball in Brown's lap and he races to endzone to win the game.
    • The very next week, against the Cleveland Browns, down 21-7 with less then 30 seconds remaining, the Bears score a touchdown, recover an onside kick, then score another touchdown with no time left on the clock. Then in overtime, the Bears punt after a 3-and-out, where the Browns Tim Couch has a pass tipped a mile into the air, falling into the arms of Mike Brown again, who runs in the winning touchdown. It seriously has to be seen to be believed.
  • 33 years after The Play in the Cal-Stanford game (mentioned below), the son of Richard Rodgers, one of Cal's receivers, would play a critical role in a last-second victory of his own in a game that would come to be known as the "Miracle in Motown", which was actually won on an extra play after the normal end of regulation. Rodgers' son, also named Richard Rodgers, was a starting tight end for the Green Bay Packers in 2015, and was part of a huge comeback in their Week 13 away game against the Detroit Lions in which the Packers surged back from a 20-0 halftime deficit to close the gap to two points going into their final drive. On what was to have been the final play, quarterback Aaron Rodgers (no relation to Richard) was tackled after the game clock had run out (ironically after catching a lateral pass from Richard Rodgers), but the defender making the tackle committed a face mask penalty in the process; since the game cannot end on a defensive penalty, this resulted in the game being extended for one more play. This time, Aaron Rodgers evaded a sack and launched the ball nearly 70 yards down the field to the end zone (and so high it almost hit the rafters), where Richard Rodgers hauled it in for a game-winning touchdown.
  • The tendency to seemingly always lose in these types of situations tends to mark whole franchises as being cursed. A football example is the Buffalo Bills, known for things like Scott Norwood missing the potential game-winning field goal in Super Bowl XXV for the Bills to lose 20–19, and losing by way of the infamous "Music City Miracle" against Tennessee. Cleveland also has been similarly victimized across the sports spectrum. The Browns' Earnest Byner fumbling at the 2-yard line on a potential game-tying score late in the 4th quarter against the Denver Broncos. Especially with Norwood, who had been clutch all year, and Byner, who was having the game of his life, the moments are even more gut-wrenching because they were two guys expected to come up big when it counts.
  • In the 1998 NFC Championship Game between the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons. Late in the game, Vikings ahead by 7, they bring out Gary Anderson, the only kicker to make every field goal and extra point during the regular season. But he missed a routine 38-yard field goal wide left, allowing the Falcons to get a touchdown to tie the game in the final 2:07. Atlanta promptly won in overtime.
  • Say what you will about Tim Couch of the Cleveland Browns; he was able to have two awesome moments in his otherwise lackluster career, both on Hail Marys. On October 31, 1999, he hit Kevin Johnson on a 56-yard bomb to beat the New Orleans Saints for the expansion Browns' first win. Then, on December 8, 2002, he found Quincy Morgan on a 50-yard catch to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars (nearly a year after the infamous "Bottlegate" game against the Jags). To date, Couch is the only quarterback to win more than one NFL game on the final play of regulation with passes of 50 or more yards.
  • Another example in which the Buffalo Bills were a victim came near the end of the 1999 AFC wild-card game against the Tennessee Titans in what became known as "The Music City Miracle". With seconds left, Steve Christie hit a 41-yard field goal to put Buffalo up 16–15. Then came the kickoff, which was a squib kick first fielded by fullback Lorenzo Neal, who handed the ball to tight end Frank Wycheck. Wycheck then threw a controversial lateral to receiver Kevin Dyson, who took the ball 75 yards for a touchdown (which was confirmed after instant replay showed that Wycheck had not thrown an illegal forward pass), resulting in a 22–16 win that led to the Titans march to Super Bowl XXXIV (as well as providing a measure of revenge for several older players who were members of the team when they were known as the Houston Oilers and lost the 1992 wild-card 41–38 to Buffalo after leading 35–3). The Bills did not appear in the postseason again until 2017, and with the Toronto Blue Jays making it to the ALCS in 2015, the Bills had the longest active playoff drought of any team in the "big four" North American sports leagues until 2017 (the Sacramento Kings held that record, which has now ended as of 2023).
  • In Super Bowl XXXIV, the favored St. Louis Rams took a 23–16 lead just after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. The underdog Tennessee Titans started their final drive of regulation at their own 10 yard line in an attempt to tie the game and force the first ever Super Bowl overtime. The Titans manage to move the ball 80 yards in 1:48. On the Rams' 10-yard line with time for one last play, Titans QB Steve McNair completed a pass to wide receiver Kevin Dyson, who was wide open and set to make the game-tying touchdown. At the last moment, Rams linebacker Mike Jones ran towards Dyson, grabbed him by the legs and dragged Dyson to the ground. Dyson stretched the ball out in an attempt to reach the goal line (the rule states that only the ball has to cross the plane of the goal line for a touchdown), but the ball stopped only a few inches shy of the goal line and time expired. So, after an 80 yard, 1:48 rally, the Titans fell inches shy of tying the game and the Rams won the Super Bowl 23–16. This has been known in NFL lore simply as "One Yard Short" or "The Tackle".
  • A Monday Night Football game in 2000 between the Vikings and Packers ended in overtime in crazy fashion: Brett Favre heaved a 3rd down pass to Antonio Freeman, which appeared to drop incomplete... and then Freeman got up and ran with the ball into the end zone. Turns out that after Freeman dived for it and missed, the ball hit him instead of the ground; he knocked it back into the air, grabbed it, and got up and ran it into the end zone for the game-winning scorenote .
  • In the "River City Relay" game from 2003, the New Orleans Saints trailed the Jacksonville Jaguars 20–13 with 7 seconds left, but in a play involving multiple spur-of-the-moment laterals, scored a TD with no time remaining. But the game didn't go to overtime because the Saints missed the extra point - making this one of the most anticlimactic last-second finishes of all time.
  • The Minnesota Vikings went into the last week of the 2003 season needing a victory over the 3–12 Arizona Cardinals to win their division. They were up 17–12 with two minutes left, but the Cardinals recovered an onside kick. QB Josh McCown drove down the field and completed a miraculous 27-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Poole. With no time left. On 4th and 24. The upset loss knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs.
  • In week 15 of the 2009 NFL season, the Pittsburgh Steelers trailed the Green Bay Packers 36–30 and faced a 3rd-&-10 at the Green Bay 19-yard line with three seconds remaining. Ben Roethlisberger dropped back and fired a pass toward the sideline, and Mike Wallace made a falling catch in the end zone to tie the game as time expired. The play stood as a touchdown after an official review, and Jeff Reed kicked the extra point to give the Steelers a 37–36 win.
  • Invoked by Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings in the 2010 NFC Championship game between the Packers and the Chicago Bears, in which the Bears came very close to pulling off a fourth-quarter Miracle Rally after three quarters in which it looked like the game was going to be a total blowout if not a shutout. As the Bears' last chance to tie the game came down to a fourth-down, do-or-die play with just seconds left on the clock, Jennings, laughing a bit, suggested it had to happen this way just to make for a good story, saying simply, "It has to be dramatic, man." It was: on that very play, Packers safety Sam Shields picked off a pass that would have given the Bears a first down, sealing the Packers' victory and sending them into the Super Bowl.note 
    • Incidentally, this was actually the second game in this Packers playoff season to end like this: two weeks earlier in Philadelphia, Packers cornerback Tramon Williams had a game-saving end zone interception with less than a minute left to play. (The game in between these two, however, was an aversion; Green Bay blew out the Atlanta Falcons 48-21, so their victory was pretty well assured long before the final snap.)
    • The Packers also sealed their Super Bowl victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in similar fashion. With the Packers up 31-25, on a Pittsburgh fourth down with 49 seconds to play, Tramon Williams jumped in front of a pass intended for Mike Wallace and deflected it out of Wallace's reach. This one hit the ground rather than being a pick, but because it was fourth down, the incompletion still resulted in a turnover.
  • In Super Bowl XLVI, the New England Patriots, trailing the New York Giants 21-17, got the ball with 57 seconds left on the play clock, but the subsequent drive was riddled with incomplete passes (plus one instance of Brady getting sacked) and the Patriots were ultimately left on their own 49-yard line with five seconds left in play. With no alternative, Brady threw a Hail Mary which actually came down just about perfectly over the end zone, but Giants safety Kenny Phillips managed to get his hands on the ball first and knock it away from the Patriots' receivers. Tight end Rob Gronkowski attempted to dive for it as it fell but couldn't get there fast enough, and the ball bounced to the ground to end the game.
    • Relatedly, the Patriots got into the Super Bowl when the Baltimore Ravens missed a fairly easy 32-yard field goal on the final play, a field goal that would have otherwise tied the game.
  • The infamous "Fail Mary" at the end of the 2012 Monday Night tilt between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. With the game being officiated by replacements due to the regular officials being locked out by the league, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson launched a desperation pass into the end zone that was grabbed by Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings, but Seahawks receiver Golden Tate also got a hand on it and may have caught it simultaneously with Jennings.note  After a bit of confusion, the referees awarded a touchdown, as simultaneous possession means the ball belongs to the offense, but controversy erupted partly because of confusion over simultaneous possession rules and partly because not everyone was convinced that it was simultaneous possession, as many people felt that Tate never really got possession and/or that Jennings had secured possession before Tate ever touched the ball (it doesn't count as simultaneous if one person already has sole possession first). What's more, in addition to the questions of possession, there was added controversy over a potential missed penalty, as some observers believed Tate committed offensive pass interference on the play, which should have negated the result of the play (and an offensive penalty after the clock has run out doesn't give an extra play like a defensive penalty would, so if the penalty had been called, the game would have ended minus the result of the touchdown play, and Green Bay would have won). Despite the rules stating that simultaneous possession was non-reviewable, the officials attempted to review the play, but did not see enough to overturn it. The ensuing controversy caused so many fans to call the NFL commissioner's office that the line was disconnected, and the regular officials were brought back the following week.note 
  • Super Bowl XLIX (2015) ended with the Seattle Seahawks trailing the New England Patriots 28–24 during the final two minutes of the game, needing a touchdown in order to win the game. Quarterback Russell Wilson started the drive by completing a 33-yard pass to Marshawn Lynch. Then after another 11-yard first down, Wilson threw a long pass that was tipped by Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, but ended up in the hands of wide receiver Jermaine Kearse who was lying on his back; Kearse somehow managed to keep the ball from hitting the ground, placing the Seahawks at the Patriots' 5 yard line with a real shot at winning the game. But after a Lynch 4-yard run put the ball on the 1, Wilson's pass to Ricardo Lockett with 20 seconds left was intercepted by Butler, deflating Seattle's hopes of winning. However, the game wasn't over just yet, as the Pats were backed up in their own end zone, and Tom Brady didn't have enough room to take a knee without risking giving up a safety, which would've given the Hawks one more shot. However, Seattle's defense lost its discipline, incurring consecutive penalties which gave Brady more than enough room to run out the clock.
  • The 2016 Detroit Lions won a surprising number of games this way, sometimes literally at the last minute; one hopes that Lions fans aren't suffering from cardiac arrest as a result.
  • The 2016 Cleveland Browns were about to finish the season 0-16, without any wins or ties. But a Christmas Miracle came in their second-to-last game against the then-San Diego Chargers on Christmas Eve. In the last seconds of the game, the Browns were leading 20-17, and the Chargers were attempting a field goal to force them into overtime. Instead, the Chargers missed it, and the Browns averted a winless season. (Unfortunately, they only held it off for one season, as they finished the 2017 season 0-16.)
  • Super Bowl LI was the first Super Bowl to go into overtime (after the Atlanta Falcons led the New England Patriots 28-3 in the 3rd Quarter), which meant that due to the NFL's OT rules, the game came down to the last play by default, with the final play in question being James White's 2 yard toss run. Averted within regulation, as New England scored the tying touchdown and 2-point conversion with 57 seconds, though they did attempt a fake-kneel sweep that ultimately failed just as time expired.
    • Incidentally, the official Madden simulation of Super Bowl LI also had the Patriots winning over the Falcons in this fashion, scoring the game-winning touchdown on 4th and goal with the Patriots down 20-24 with 20 seconds left in regulation.
    • Starting with the 2022-23 NFL Playoffs, a touchdown on the opening possession no longer automatically ends the game; sudden death only occurs either on a defensive score or after each team has its first offensive possession and the score remains tied.
    • Super Bowl LVIII, between the San Fransisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, ended up being the second Super Bowl to go to overtime, and the first since the aforementioned rule change... which ended up being completely moot as the 49ers, the first team to possess the ball in overtime, were only able to come away with a field goal on their first possession. The Chiefs ultimately won on a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
  • In the 2017-18 NFL Playoffs Divisional Round, the Minnesota Vikings took on the New Orleans Saints. The Saints were ahead by one point with 10 seconds left, neither team had a timeout, and the Vikings were about thirty yards outside of field-goal range. Then this happened. It was the first time in the Super Bowl era that a playoff game went literally down to the last play in regulation through a game-winning touchdown (as opposed to the game being effectively over but there still being time technically on the clock), and the play that won it had been known ever since as "The Minneapolis Miracle".
  • In the 2019 NFL season, the San Francisco 49ers finished 13-3. Not only were all 3 losses against bird-themed teams, their division rival Seattle Seahawks, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Atlanta Falcons, but all 3 losses were thanks to last-second plays: the Seahawks kicked their game-winning field goal in the last seconds of overtime, the Ravens also won with a game-winning field goal, albeit before time expired in regulation, and the Falcons scored a last-second touchdown.
    • Thankfully this also worked in favor of the 49ers against the Seahawks in the final game of the 2019 season. Despite trailing the game 26-21, Seahawks looked to steal the game and the NFC West in the closing seconds. Unfortunately, they accidentally took a delay of game due to miscommunication, knocking them further from the goal line. After two failed passes, QB Russell Wilson found WR Jacob Hollister for a pass that looked like a win. But 49ers Linebacker Dre Greenlaw stopped Hollister by literal inches of the goal line as time expired. The 49ers would win the game and earn the #1 seed of the NFC that season.
  • In the last game of the 2021-2022 NFL Regular Season, the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders found themselves in an interesting situation. Both teams were playing for a spot in the playoffs, but if the game ended in a tie, both teams would enter the playoffs. The Chargers were down 20-14 going into the 4th Quarter, but ended up rallying to a 29-29 tie to force overtime. The Raiders got the ball first and kicked a field goal, only for the Chargers to answer with a field goal of their own. The game ultimately came down to the final two seconds, where Las Vegas lined up for a last second field goal. If they made it, they were going to the playoffs, but the Chargers would be eliminated, allowing the Pittsburgh Steelers to take the final playoff spot. If they missed, the game would end in a tie and both the Raiders and the Chargers would go to the playoffs. The Field Goal was good, eliminating the Chargers.
  • In the Divisional Playoffs of the 2021-22 Season, all four games were decided by the final play. Three games (49ers at Packers, Rams at Buccaneers, Bengals at Titans) ended with tie-breaking field goals by the visiting team, with the fourth (Bills at Chiefs) ending with a tie-setting field goal by the home team. The Chiefs-Bills game in particular saw several plays in the dying three minutes that could have been potential game-winners, before the Chiefs marched down the field from their own 25-yard-line within 13 seconds just to send the game to overtime, meaning it was down to the last play to even continue the game. The Chiefs then won the game by scoring a touchdown in the opening drive of overtime, which, since that is an instant win condition, made the scoring play the last play of the game.
    • The Conference Playoffs the next week made this trope happen five times in a row. The Bengals were down 21-3 against the Chiefs before having 21 unanswered points. Kansas City managed to rally for a literal at the buzzer tie-making field goal taking the game into overtime for the second time in as many weeks. This time, they failed to win, with Cincinnati winning the sudden-death overtime with a field goal. The NFC Championship game ended the streak, as even though the last score was a tie-breaking field goal by the Rams, the play that effectively ended the game was an interception on the return drive by the 49ers with seventy seconds on the clock, followed by several knee-downs. Super Bowl LVI similarly flirted with the trope, as the Rams took a 23-20 lead on a go-ahead TD with 1:29 left in regulation, but two quick passes by the Bengals put them in position to convert on a second-and-one at the Ram 49 yard line, which would seemingly allow them to run down the clock and march into field goal position, but an incomplete pass, a run for no gain and a fourth down incompletion by the Bengals sealed the win for the Rams, who just kneeled on their last play.


  • In the 1968 edition of their storied rivalry game (with both teams entering the game undefeated), Yale led Harvard 29-13 late in the fourth quarter. Harvard cut it to 29-21 with :42 left in the game, then recovered an onside kick (which Yale strangely didn't seem to think Harvard would attempt, sending out their normal kickoff return unit). Thanks in part to a 15-yard facemask penalty on Yale, Harvard found themselves on the Yale 8-yard line with :03 left, and Frank Champi threw a touchdown pass to Vic Gatto to make it 29-27, then threw a successful two-point conversion to end the game as a 29-29 tie, with Harvard having scored 16 points in the final 42 seconds. The next day, the headline for their student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, was "Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29". Tommy Lee Jones played for Harvard in that game.
  • Given how much We Are Marshall follows the standard Hollywood sports movie template, even though it's Based on a True Story, viewers maybe be surprised to learn that the 1971 game between Marshall and Xavier that's depicted at the film's climax really did end the way the movie showed it: Marshall, playing its first home game with a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits team cobbled together after the entire 1970 team died in a plane crash toward the end of the season,note  trailed 13-9 but had the ball on the Xavier 13-yard line with just :08 left on the clock. QB Reggie Oliver threw a screen pass to Terry Gardner, who scampered to the end zone as the clock ran out, giving Marshall the 15-13 win.
  • One of the crazier college football examples was Colorado State hosting BYU in 1974. BYU led 26-6 midway through the 3rd quarter, but CSU clawed back to narrow the lead to 33-27 late in the game, getting the ball back with 1:10 remaining. The drive sputtered deep in BYU territory, and BYU got the ball back on their own 16-yard line with :06 left, needing to run one play to seal the victory. But BYU quarterback Gary Sheide fumbled the snap, CSU recovered, and with :03 on the clock, CSU QB Mark Driscoll hit Willie Miller for a 15-yard TD pass, tying the game at 33 as the clock ran out, with CSU just needing to make the extra point to pull out the win. But after CSU's players rushed onto the field to celebrate, a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was assessed, pushing the PAT attempt much farther back than normal, and CSU kicker Clark Kemble appeared to kick it wide left, which, in the era before overtime, would finish the game as a 33-33 tie. One referee signaled the PAT as no good, but a second referee in the back of the end zone held his arms up, and the scoreboard gave CSU a 34-33 win. But shortly afterwards, CSU's score was changed back to 33. For the next 20 minutes, confusion reigned in the press box and the stands as the score constantly changed back-and-forth. Finally someone tracked down the referee who raised his arms, and he confirmed that he was not signaling the kick as good, but rather, since referees were supposed to signal the end of the game by holding up the ball, but the ball on the missed kick sailed into the stands, he just held up his arms instead, and the score was finalized at 33-33.
  • Hail Flutie, the 1984 BC-Miami game that ended with a Hail Mary pass from Doug Flutie to Gerard Phelan, giving Boston College a 47–45 win.
    • Two other famous game-winning college Hail Marys: 1980 Holiday Bowl, BYU's Jim McMahon to Clay Brown for a 46–45 win over SMU; 1994, Colorado at Michigan, Kordell Stewart to Michael Westbrook, Colorado wins 27–26.
  • One stands head and shoulders above all others in terms of sheer insanity. It is known, even to Wikipedia, simply as "The Play". In 1982, college football teams representing arch-rivals Californianote  and Stanford played their season-ending game. After a spectacular drive led by John Elway, Stanford took a 20–19 lead on a field goal with four seconds left, meaning Cal had to return the ensuing kickoff all the way or they'd lose (theoretically, they could down it promptly and try for a Hail Mary, but that's much more difficult). In the equivalent of a rugby play, Cal used five laterals to keep the play alive until they ran it into the end zone and scored a touchdown. Bonus points because the Stanford band and team thought they had already won, and were filing onto the field – at one point, they were at least 20 yards downfield – for their victory tune – and a band member got clobbered in the process. It has to be seen to be believed, really.note 
  • The 1990 college game between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Utah Utes. The Utes had blown an early 19-0 lead and the game was tied 29-29 late in the fourth quarter. Minnesota blocked a Utah punt, and after a couple plays, with :08 remaining in the gamenote , Gopher kicker Brent Berglund was set to be the game's hero, once he made a sure-thing 29-yard field goal as time ran out. Instead, the Utes blocked the field goal, then defensive back LaVon Edwards scooped up the ball and ran untouched to the end zone, giving Utah the 35-29 victory.
  • September 11, 1999: the Baylor Bears, playing at home, led the UNLVnote  Rebels 24–21 with less than 20 seconds remaining in the game, with the ball on the UNLV 8-yard line and UNLV out of timeouts. Baylor simply needed to take a knee to secure their first win of the season, and the first win of rookie head coach Kevin Steele's career. But, apparently thinking a final TD would provide a confidence boost for his team, Steele called for RB Darrel Bush to run the ball up to the goal line. During his struggle to cross the plane of the goal, UNLV's defense stripped the ball from Bush, and defensive back Kevin Thomas scooped the ball up and ran 100 yards for a TD as time expired, giving UNLV the 27–24 upset win, leaving the Baylor fans in Stunned Silence. The incident was a Never Live It Down moment for Steele, who Baylor ended up firing after the 2002 season.
  • In an October 2007 NCAA Division III game, the Trinity (Texas) Tigers trailed the Millsaps (Mississippi) Majors 24-22 with two seconds remaining in the game, with the ball on their own 39-yard line. After completing a short pass, Trinity needed to keep the ball in play and avoid a game-ending tackle, and they did so via 15 laterals (three times as many as Cal used in The Play), moving the ball 61 yards for a touchdown with no time on the clock and a 28-24 win. It took 1 minute and 3 seconds to play final two seconds of game time, believed to be the longest play in college football history.
  • Boise State, a huge underdog to the perennial-powerhouse Oklahoma Sooners, won the 2007 Fiesta Bowl by scoring on three trick plays on the last play of the game and in overtime. The touchdown scoring ones (a hook and ladder, and a halfback pass) and the final 2-point conversion to win in overtime (a Statue of Liberty play) were all well-known trick plays that fail more often than they succeed. To add to the theatrical quality, the player who made the winning score popped the question to his cheerleader girlfriend after the game (on national TV). She said yes.
  • The 2010 Music City Bowl between North Carolina and Tennessee had a similar last-second gambit to the aforementioned Grey Cup incident, except a bit more awkward. Trailing 20–17 in the 4th, a North Carolina field goal would send the game to overtime. In the dying seconds, the Tar Heels sloppily rushed a field goal unit with way too many players onto the field, and T.J. Yates spiked the ball with only one second left. The point of the play was to stop the clock on the ensuing penalty (since Yates had spiked the ball before time ran out), in order to get one more chance for an actual field goal attempt. Confusion ensued when time ran out: a flag was thrown, but the referee declared the game over, and the Volunteers began storming the field in celebration. Eventually, the officials clicked into the Tar Heels' ruse, giving them a 10-yard penalty and putting a single second back on the clock. North Carolina got their field goal, and won the game 30–27 in double overtime.
    • The incident led to an Obvious Rule Patch by the NCAA in subsequent seasons; in 2011, the rules were changed so that 10 seconds must run from the clock if a foul which stops it is assessed (or a timeout can be taken).
  • 2013 Auburn Tigers football team:
    • After an embarrassing 3-9 season in 2012 (with no wins against SEC opponents, including a 49-0 Curb-Stomp Battle at the Iron Bowl — their traditional, season-ending cross-state rivalry with Alabama), the Auburn Tigers were experiencing a resurgence. One of their most notable comebacks came on November 16, 2013 — hosting another traditional rival, the Georgia Bulldogs. In the final 40 seconds, Georgia was leading 38-37. But then, Auburn QB Nick Marshall threw a 73-yard Hail Mary, which got a lucky bounce off two Georgia defensemen into the hands of their wide receiver, who took it the rest of the way for a game-winning touchdown. The "Prayer at Jordan–Hare" was shaping up to be the most iconic moment of Auburn's 2013 season...
    • ...until two weeks later at the Iron Bowl. Alabama had entered the season as two-time national champions, and were in their traditional form throughout. Going into the Iron Bowl, Alabama and Auburn were ranked at #1 and #4 in the nation respectively; for the first time ever, the winner of the game would clinch the SEC's west division and advance to the conference championship. Following an Auburn drive that scored a touchdown, tying the game at 28 with only 34 seconds left, Bama took over in their territory. Auburn stopped them from scoring and even forced a player out of bounds just as time expired, which stopped the clock. The play was reviewed, and one second was put back on the clock. Alabama attempted a 57-yard field goal. If it missed, the game would just go to overtime. Their starter had missed three earlier that game, so they put in the backup. He kicked the ball well, but it fell short, where Auburn returner Chris Davis waited. Davis then returned it all the way back to Alabama's end zone for a touchdown to win the game 34–28, in what would later be known as the "Kick Six".
    • Auburn went on to win the SEC championship. Thanks to #10 Michigan State upsetting #2 Ohio State to take the Big Ten championship, Auburn got pushed up to #2 on the BCS rankings and played in the BCS Championship Game, where they lost to Florida State.
  • At the 2015 Michigan State vs. Michigan football game, Michigan was up 23–21 when they were set to punt the ball away with 10 seconds left on 4th and 2. Except the snap was fumbled and the ball went straight to MSU's Jalen Watts-Jackson, who ran it back for the game-winning touchdown as time expired. Not a bad way to beat your in-state rival for the 7th time in 8 years. A Grand Rapids news station was even caught off-guard by the ending, where a mix-up caused a sportscaster outside the stadium to report that Michigan had won.
  • Alabama again, this time in 2018. The College Football Championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs. Real give-and-take thriller, especially at the end, tied 20-20. Alabama's Andy Pappanastos lines up to kick for the championships. He slips... and the kick goes wide, meaning the game goes into Overtime. Georgia gets the ball first and despite setbacks, takes the lead with a 51-yard field goal from Rodrigo Blankenship. Alabama's turn, and now they must score. First play, freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa gets sacked bad. But, next play, he finds DeVonta Smith and connects for the Championship-winning touchdown!
  • In the 2022 Peach Bowl, one of the two semifinals for the 2022 College Football Playoff, #1 Georgia trailed #4 Ohio State for most of the game; however, the Bulldogs rallied from a 14-point deficit in the 4th quarter to gain a one-point lead with 0:54 left in regulation. In 46 seconds, the Buckeyes drove the ball to Georgia's 32-yard line to set up a potential game-winning field goal from 50 yards out. The clock struck midnight, both metaphorically and literally, for Ohio State after Noah Ruggles' kick goes wide left, sealing the Dogs' return ticket to the National Championship Game.
  • The utterly bizarre conclusion of the Miami Hurricanes hosting the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in 2023. Miami was undefeated and ranked #17. Georgia Tech had just come off a humiliating loss to lightly-regarded Bowling Green the previous week. Oddsmakers placed Miami as a 20-point favorite in the game. It was a closer-than-expected game, but Miami got the ball back with 5:30 left in the 4th quarter and 20–17 lead, and milked the clock down to :33, facing 3rd down and 10 yards on the Tech 30-yard line with Tech out of timeouts.note  Conventional football wisdom would be to have the quarterback take a knee, since the clock would likely run out before they needed to run a 4th down play. Instead, Miami coach Mario Cristobal decided to channel Kevin Steele from the 1999 Baylor-UNLV game mentioned above and call an up-the-gut running play.note  Donald Chaney Jr. gained four yards, but then fumbled the ball, which Georgia Tech recovered (though the officials needed a replay review to confirm the turnover). With :26 left and the ball on their own 26-yard line, Tech had their kicker warming up for a possible field goal to send the game to overtime. QB Haynes King threw an incomplete pass, then a 30-yarder, then spiked the ball, then with :01 on the clock, he found a wide-open Christian Leary for a 44-yard TD pass. Bitter Miami fans threw water bottles into the end zone in protest. Tech elected to take a knee rather than kick a PAT, making the score 23–20. With just enough time to run one last play, Miami tried a desperation pass that turned into a Cal-Stanford gambit, but they fumbled on the 5th lateral and Georgia Tech sealed the win.
  • November 25, 2023 saw two games end this way over the course of about seven hours.
    • First was the Apple Cup game between archrivals Washington and Washington State, marking the final time they would face each other as conference foes, with Washington needing a win to finish the regular season undefeated. The seesaw battle was tied at 21 when Washington started a drive at their own 10-yard line with 1:59 left in the 4th. UW QB Michael Penix Jr. guided the Huskies down the field and seemingly had them in good position for a touchdown, on the WSU 16-yard line with :20 left, but a sack pushed them back 9 yards. But they still had enough time for Grady Gross to make a 42-yard field goal as time expired for a 24–21 Washington win.
    • Hawai'i hosting Colorado State was the final game of the day, with CSU needing a win to become eligible for a bowl game. Facing 4th down and 10 at their own 30-yard line with less than a minute remaining in regulation, CSU's Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi eluded three Hawai'i pass rushers and found a wide open Tory Horton, who sprinted to the end zone untouched. A successful two-point conversion tied the game at 24. Hawai'i was out of time outs, but still marched down to the CSU 34-yard line as the clock slipped under 10 seconds. The UH field goal unit hurried out and managed to line up and snap the ball just barely in time before the clock ran out (literally; the replay showed they snapped the ball mere milliseconds before the clock reached :00). Matthew Shipley hit the 51-yard field goal (his season long) and Hawai'i prevailed 27–24.
  • The Army–Navy game of December 9, 2023 had Army up by eight points in the bottom of the last quarter. With a touchdown and two-point conversion needed to take the game to overtime, the Midshipmen ran a 72-yard drive that ran out of steam on the one-foot line with three seconds left on the clock. The ball was then turned over to the Black Knights on downs, who then used the last play of the game to take a safety, ending the game 17–11.

Canadian Football

  • In the 2009 Grey Cup (final of the Canadian Football League) game, the Montreal Alouettes were down 27–25, 43 yards from the Saskatchewan Roughriders' goal when time ran out (and this was, indeed, after a comeback from 27–11 early in the fourth quarter). A 43-yard field goal attempt fell short, but Saskatchewan would receive a 10-yard penalty for having 13 men on the field, and Montreal got to try again. The 33-yard attempt was successful, and Montreal won 28–27. Actually, it's even more clever. The Alouettes knew the Roughriders had one too many players, and they went in as fast as possible and rushed their kick before the other team realised they were in fault. It was a Xanatos Gambit: Either they scored and won, or they missed, called the penalty, and got to try again much closer.
  • During the 2010 CFL season in a Week 18 matchup, the Alouettes were tied with the Toronto Argonauts 30-all with 9 seconds left in regulation. Either a successful field goal OR Toronto failing to get the ball out of their end zone should the field goal attempt go wide, scoring a single, would give Montreal the win, otherwise the game would go into overtime. Montreal's field goal attempt does go wide, Toronto kicks the ball out of the back of their end zone, Montreal receives the punt at Toronto's 22-yard line, then punts it back into Toronto's end zone, Toronto tries to kick the ball back out of their end zone while it's on the ground, however, Montreal swats the ball near the goal line and recovers the fumble for the game-winning touchdown. This video breaks down what happens.
  • Canadian university football example: In the 2023 Hardy Cup (the championship game of the Canada West Universities Athletic Association, basically a quarterfinal game in the national playoffs), the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, playing at home, had trailed the University of Alberta Golden Bears for all of the second half, getting the ball back with four minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, down 27–21. A steady drive put UBC on the Alberta 13-yard line with :03 left and one final shot to score, and as the clock ran out, QB Garrett Rooker (a Texas native playing north of the border) passed to Sam Davenport (who'd transferred to UBC after crosstown rival Simon Fraser, the only Canadian school in the NCAA, dropped their football program) to tie the game at 27, and the ensuing extra point gave the Thunderbirds a dramatic win with no time left.

Arena Football

  • 2007 Arena Football playoff game between the Chicago Rush and Colorado Crush. (Apparently the Arena League had never heard of the One-Steve Limit, as these two teams were even in the same division.) Colorado (the home team) had a three-point lead, but was forced to make a goal-line stand against Chicago on the final play. Colorado made an apparent game-winning interception, the confetti was dropped from the rafters...only to discover that a penalty had been called on the play (for holding the intended receiver of the pass), forcing a do-over. Chicago then went for a game-tying field goal, made it, and forced overtime...the start of which was delayed by over 15 minutes to clear all of the confetti from the field. Fortunately for the Crush, they won in OT anyway.

High School

  • A rare example of both sides of the trope showing up: 1994 Texas HS football: Plano East pulls off a near-impossible 24-point comeback with three minutes left in the fourth quarter. With only seconds on the clock and only the final kickoff to perform, John Tyler High takes the kickoff right back up the field, pulling off the Miracle Win/Downer Ending combo. The play-by-play is almost as entertaining, for different reasons.
  • In 2021, in a high school game against Hamilton High School (AZ) and Bishop Gorman High School (NV), Hamilton, despite being down 7-24 with less than 1:10 remaining in regulation, managed to score 18 points in that time to win the game 25-24. Now down 10-24 after a successful field goal, Hamilton recovered the onside kick to cut Bishop Gorman's lead to 24-17 with 30 seconds remaining. Then Hamilton successfully recovers another onside kick, bringing the score to 24-23 with 8 seconds left. Rather than going for a kick for the tie and overtime, Hamilton runs the ball in for the eventual game-winning 2-point conversion. Bishop Gorman had one last opportunity to get a game-ending touchdown in their favor, but a failed lateral pitch allowed Hamilton to recover the fumble, sealing their victory.

  • A real life example occurred in the 2005 Ashes, specifically in the second Test. Australia were just two runs away from victory when Steve Harmison took the wicket of Mike Kasprowicz to level the series. It was almost universally hailed as the best Test match ever.
    • Arguably just as exciting was the third Test a week later where Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath (at that time the worst Test batsman in the world) managed to cling on for a draw to keep the series level. The real hero was Australian captain Ricky Ponting, who defied the England bowlers for seven hours before getting out with only four overs to go.
      • 2009, and the shoe's on the other foot as Monty Panesar and James Anderson hold out for twelve overs - nearly an hour's play. Panesar was a strong rival for McGrath's claim to be the world's worst batsman, and he held out much longer.
  • The second ODI match between Australia and England in 2014 had Australia one wicket away from defeat, with 57 runs to make in order to win. James Faulkner, a bowling all-rounder, single-handedly carried the team over the line with three balls to spare.
  • Another cricket example happened at the Adelaide Test between Australia and the West Indies in 1993. For the preceding 16 years, the West Indies were the top cricketers in the world - never losing a Test series for all of the 1980's to anyone. Going into the match, Australia only had to win one more to seal a series victory. The last two batsmen for Australia were one run from winning the series outright ... before Courtney Walsh got Craig McDermott out on the second last ball of the match.
  • Arguably the most notorious example in cricket was the semi-final of the 1999 World Cup, fought between South Africa and Australia. Australia had set a modest total, and the South Africans were set to win in the last over with one wicket in hand. However, a run-out happened with the scores tied, and Australia were handed the victory on the basis that their average scoring rate in the group stages of the World Cup was higher than South Africa's.
  • The rules of fencing (in epee, saber, and foil) state that when the score is tied with one touch remaining, the fencers must salute each other (in other words, when this trope comes into play). When bouts go to five touches, it happens all the time, but it's considerably more epic when it happens in a bout to fifteen.
  • Australian Rules Football has had the Adelaide Crows failing to make it to the semi-finals by the opposing team scoring a goal in the last ten seconds of the last quarter. Twice.
    • The true "down to the last play" situation, however, is when a player takes a mark or is awarded a free kick within scoring distance when the final siren goes - if this happens, the player is allowed to take their shot after the siren. North Melbourne's Malcolm Blight was the subject of two famous examples. The first was when he kicked a goal from around 80 metres out to defeat Carlton. In the second, Blight had kicked a behind (one point) to tie the score against Hawthorn, but was awarded a free kick as the siren went. He had the option of accepting the behind or taking another shot, chose to take the shot... and missed the goals completely, resulting in Hawthorn winning the game.
    • Hell, Wikipedia has a whole list of Aussie Rules examples.
    • With the AFL abandoning Grand Final Replays as of 2016, if a Grand Final is still tied after regulation extra time, it will become Golden Point (this trope). The final siren will not sound until the tie is broken.
  • The World's Strongest Man contest is almost always decided in this way, with the two final contenders going head-to-head in the final event (traditionally the Atlas Stones) to decide the winner. The 2014 final was a good example; for the first time, three men went into the final round with a shot at the title. Reigning champion Brian Shaw set a remarkable time on his run, but could only watch as Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson decimated it; Žydrūnas Savickas, despite having been beaten by Hafþór, managed to pip Shaw's time by four-tenths of a second and thus secured the points he needed to win his fourth world title, beating Hafþór by half a point.
  • The 1999 US Open Golf Championship's final day was almost perfectly set up for this trope, especially in the final groupings, which contained three of the most popular golfers of the year.. The young prodigy Tiger Woods was hitting his stride as one of the best golfers of the decade, and fan favorite Payne Stewart was paired with another young gun, Phil Mickelson, who was attempting to gain his first major victory in his career. The fun part? All three were within a shot or two of each other, and the tournament was settled with Payne Stewart's 15-foot putt for par, barely breaking free of the tie between him and Mickelson.
  • In the 2010 Winter Olympics men's hockey final, Canada led 2-1 against the USA. The Americans managed to tie the game by 2-2 in last period, with only 20 or so seconds left for the period, but Canadian Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal during overtime.
  • A similar but much older match was the eight-game Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union in 1972. After going down a game after four games at home, the Canadians went to the USSR determined to beat the team of "supermen". The tournament was tied and came down to the last game, when Canadian Paul Henderson scored the winner goal with less than a minute left on the clock.
  • Happened at the 2009 Women's Field Hockey Champions Trophy in Sydney, Australia. The Hockeyroos, the Australian women's team, were the only team to have attended each edition of the annual tournament since its inception in 1987. The competition pits six of the best countries against each other in a week-long tournament. Due to the format of rules following an Olympic year, the Hockeyroos had to win to qualify for the tournament in 2010. They won all round games, except against Argentina, who they then faced in the finals. In the finals full time ended on a draw, and golden goal extra time ended with no goals, so the event went to penalty flicks to decide a winner. At the end of five flicks each, both teams had scored three goals. It then went to sudden death flicks, Australia missed and Argentina scored. The Hockeyroos now miss the Champions Trophy for 2010, even though they came second.
  • The 1985 World Snooker Final, between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor fits the Trope ludicrously well. Davis (aged 27) has already won the title 3 times, is the best player in the world, and is hot favourite to win again. Taylor (aged 36) is a lovable Irishman, always joking with the crowd, in the world's top ten or so but apparently outclassed, despite having had a good season (coming back bravely after the death of his mother). In the first-to-18 final, Davis races to an 8-0 lead. Taylor fights back to 11-11, but can't get ahead. Davis takes a 17-15 lead, only for Taylor to pull back again to 17-17. The edgy final frame takes over an hour, and eventually Taylor pulls out a brilliant pot to take it to the final black. He then gets the first chance, but misses badly. Davis looks sure to be left a sitter, but it goes slightly awkward - still, he's left with a pot he'd get 9 times out of 10 to win. He misses too, leaving an easy chance. Taylor steadies himself, and pots it to win 18-17 after nearly 15 hours of play - the final frame having run on well past midnight!
    • That final was awesome, in fact Taylor says that the ninth frame was his turning point. Davis just barely missed a black pot which would have put him up 9-0. Taylor was able to pot the colors and win his first frame. Davis has said that he "lost the plot" after that, and Taylor began to make his comeback. The final 35th frame was an epic that lasted SIXTY-EIGHT minutes, since each player played so many safety shots. Truly a sight to behold for any cue sports fan.
    • It says a lot for how much that final captivated people that it still holds the record today for the biggest post-midnight TV audience in the UK (18.5 million), and the biggest audience ever for BBC2.
  • Cycling: Tour de France 1989. After winning the Tour de France for the first time in 1986, in 1987, Greg LeMond was seriously injured in an hunting incident; his recovery took two years. In 1989, LeMond and Laurent Fignon were neck-and-neck by the time they reached Paris for the final stage, which was an individual time trial (ITT). Fignon was leading LeMond by 50 seconds, by many considered to be a decisive lead, considering the final time trial was a mere 25 km. Using (for the time) unorthodox equipment (flat aerobars; teardrop shaped helmet), LeMond beat Fignot by 58 seconds, winning the Tour de France by the smallest margin ever: 8 seconds. That's 8 seconds after 22 days, 3,285 km and 87h 38m 35s of cycling (a difference of 0.0025%). LeMond would win the Tour de France for a third and final time in 1990. Largely because of later campaigning by Fignon, the Tour organizers no longer schedule an ITT for the final stage, making it a casual affair with the general classification largely safe and the riders taking things easy, content to enjoy the thrill of having finished the race.
    • Except in 2024 (more than a decade after Fignon's premature passing), when the Tour will end on a time trial for the first time since 1989.
    • In 2011, Andy Schleck had a 57-second lead on Cadel Evans before the final counting stage in the general classification that year. The thing is, that stage was an ITT, which is a discipline where Evans was far superior to the highly specialized climbers Andy and Fränk Schleck. The 4-second lead Fränk had, and the 57-second lead Andy had, was not enough, as Evans beat Andy by 2.31 and Fränk by 2.34, leaving the brothers from Luxembourg in second and third.
    • This trope can happen in individual stages as well. In stage 14 of the 2014 Tour, breakaway rider Jack Bauer (no, not that Jack Bauer) looked like he was going to hold off the charging peloton, but he was caught less than 50 meters from the finish line. Bauer finished 10th in a stage he looked like he would win.
    • Something almost identical happened to time trial specialist Tony Martin in the 2013 Vuelta a España. Martin, the world time trial champion, attacked at the start of the 175km 6th stage, led the entire stage, somehow kept the peloton back around 10 seconds behind in the final kilometers and was heartbreakingly caught with only 20-25 metres to go to the finish line. Happily however he did succeed with a similar breakaway in the 2014 Tour de France and won the stage.
  • Dick Mackey won the 1978 running of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 14 days, 18 hours, 52 minutes, and 24 seconds, beating Rick Swenson by one second. The thousand-mile race was literally decided by a nose, as Mackey's lead dog was mere inches ahead of Swenson's.
  • A Rugby Union example came in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final between Australia and England in Australia. After a half-time score of 5-14 to England, Elton Flatley kicked penalty goals for Australia in the 47th, 61st and 80th minutes to tie the game at 14-14. English fly half Jonny Wilkinson kicked a penalty goal to put England ahead in the 2nd minute of overtime, which Flatley responded to in the 97th minute with 3 minutes remaining. Wilkinson kicked a drop goal with 27 seconds left on the clock to win the game 20-17 and the World Cup for England. The commentary was special.
    There's 35 seconds to go, this is the one. It's coming back to Jonny Wilkinson, he drops for World Cup glory. It's up! It's over! He's done it! Jonny Wilkinson is England's hero - yet again! And there's no time for Australia to come back. England have just won the World Cup.
  • Probably more common in Rugby than you'd think - since after the 80 minutes passes, play doesn't end until the next stoppage (and even then not if it's a penalty), a well disciplined team trailing by a narrow margin always has time to launch a final attack. Case in point: trailing 29-32 to South Africa by the 79th minute of their opening pool game in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Japan twice rejected taking an easy 3 points with a penalty kick, instead going for the win. Two penalties, one rolling TMO (due to an inconclusive rolling maul) and a couple of reset scrums later (resulting in a total of one lineout and four 5 metre scrums), substitute Karne Hesketh touched down in the corner with his only touch of the game in the 84th minute to seal an improbable victory. Then there's the France vs Wales match during the 2017 Six Nations, which had 20 minutes of added time before France scored a converted try to edge out Wales 20-18.
  • While most poker games are decided by marginal decisions, high-ranking hands tend to provoke all-ins, often eliminating a player outright. A lot less contrived than sport examples, which require a close score and a well-timed window of opportunity.
  • The 2012 NHL Winter Classic between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers came down to a penalty shot. The Rangers had a 3-2 lead with just under 20 seconds remaining in regulation when the Flyers were awarded a penalty shot because a Ranger other than the goalkeeper had covered the puck in the goal crease (similar to the FIFA rule, except that the defender is not ejected, and a missed shot or save is dead). The Rangers' goalie made the save, and the Rangers held on to win the game.
    • The 2015 Winter Classic is up there, too. A well-contested matchup between the Blackhawks and Capitals was tied 2-2 in the second period and wasn't broken until 12.9 seconds to go in the game, when Troy Brouwer gets a rebound off a broken stick and fires home the game-winner for the Capitals.
  • As of 2016, the Stanley Cup has been won on an overtime goal 17 times. The most famous image of such a feat is Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins, who fell over as he scored on the St. Louis Blues' Glenn Hall, and was immortalized celebrating with his arms up as he was flying in front of the crease. However, it should be noted that this goal came at the end of a Bruins sweep of the Blues.
    • The 1999 Stanley Cup Finals ended on a highly controversial overtime goal scored by the Dallas Stars' Brett Hull on the Buffalo Sabres' Dominik Hašek. It's still a sore point for Buffalo fans.
    • As of 2016, only two Cup-clinching overtime goals have ever come in a deciding Game 7. Both of those goals were scored by the Detroit Red Wings: by Pete Babando in the 1950 Finals against the New York Rangers, and by Tony Leswick in the 1954 Finals against the Montreal Canadiens.
  • The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs series between the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues was won by a goal from Avalanche forward Darren Helm with 5.6 seconds left in the final period of Game 6, sending the Avalanche to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 20 years.
  • Any Tennis game that goes to the final setnote  is like this. The score is completely even so effectively the last set is the only one that counts. In a both tiebreak and non-tiebreak final setsnote  this means a minimum of two points settle the winner.
    • Wimbledon 2009 men's singles final (Roger Federer vs Andy Roddick) went 2 sets all 16-14 in the final set. After 76 games, two points in the 77th (it went to deuce) are what wins it.
    • The very next year, Wimbledon saw a longer match in the first round, with American John Isner beating Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the final set. That's right, that's one hundred thirty-eight games of tennis in the final set alone. It took 11 hours and 5 minutes, not counting the two times the match was suspended on account of darkness. Tellingly, Isner lost the next game in just 74 minutes. (Isner got another Wimbledon case in 2019, losing a semifinal that lasted 6 hours and 36 minutes; the winner also barely performed in the subsequent match)
    • The 2008 final between Federer and Rafael Nadal was this one to the T. Nadal won the first two sets, then when he was one point away from the victory Federer managed to save the third set on a tie-break and won also the fourth set on a tie-break, and in the fifth set they tied at the end of the fifth set, so whoever won two games in a row would get the set, the match and the title. Eventually it was Nadal, in what has bee lauded as one of the greatest matches in the history of tennis. Thanks in part to that victory, he took over Federer as World #1 a couple months later.
    • The 2012 Australian Open — Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic win two sets each, and the fifth goes to deuce before Djokovic wins the last two points in a nearly six-hour-long final.
    • The 2020 Olympics added a match tiebreak, first to 10 points (two point advantage still applying), to the doubles tournament to push it further into the trope. The women's bronze wasn't long, but stood out for the upset: the Russians who were Wimbledon finalists that same month opened 9-5, only for their Brazilians opponents to repeatedly deny the match point and beat them with 11-9.
  • This is a trope that could be applied to a match by the Danish handball team in every big tournament since the 2007 World Championships:
    • 2007 World Championships — Denmark vs Iceland (quarter final), In the end of first overtime of a very goal-rich match between the two arch rivals, the score is 41-41 before the final offensive play, then this happens. Denmark finished 3rd in the tournament.
    • 2008 European Championships — Denmark vs Germany (semi final). After a very even match, Denmark gets a penalty in the last attacking sequence. The legendary winger Lars Christiansen scores. Denmark later beats Croatia in the final
    • 2008 Olympics — Denmark vs Russia (group stage). The game is a tie at 24-24, when the time runs out and Denmark has a free throw. Direct free throws are almost never scored on, but that doesn't stop the youngest player in the squad, Mikkel Hansen, from scoring a crazy goal, getting very well known in Denmark. Denmark later got knocked out in the quarter finals, getting the worst result ever for coach Ulrik Wilbek in a big tournament - Mikkel Hansen is now regarded as one of the absolutely best handballers in the world
    • 2009 World Championships - Denmark vs Serbia (group stage). A match which will probably be remembered for horrid defending and goalkeeping, it's a 36-36 tie in the final attack. With a five seconds to go, Lasse Boesen scores a goal, giving the victory to Denmark. Denmark lost the semi-finals and finished 4th
    • 2010 European Championships - Denmark vs Norway (main round). Same as in the 2008 European championship, except the score being 23-23 before Anders Eggert took the penalty. Denmark finished 5th in that tournament.
    • 2011 World Championships - Denmark vs France (final). Again it's the last attacking play, only this time, Denmark is one goal behind the defending champions at 30-31. It's being lined up for a shot, where everyone expects tournament top scorer Mikkel Hansen to take the shot. The ball is passed to Spellerberg instead, who scores and sends it to overtime. Denmark loses the final in overtime.
    • 2012 European Championships - Denmark vs Macedonia (main round). Score is 32-32, 10 seconds left and the Macedonians are lining up for a shot which is to be taken by their star player, Kiril Lazarov. Lazarov shoots, save by Landin, rebound picked up by.. René Toft, pass to Hansen, pass to Lindberg, GOAL and with a second to spare. Video here. Go to 0:50 to see the sequence). Denmark went from (literally) zero to hero, the comeback starting with that win, ending with a 21-19 win against hosts Serbia in the final.
  • All three races of the 1978 Triple Crown were won by 2 lengths or less, with all three with the same win and place: Affirmed and Alydar, respectively. The most exciting came at the Belmont: the pair remained neck-and-neck down the entire stretch, with Affirmed winning it (and the Triple Crown, the last one for 37 years until American Pharoah won it in 2015) by a nose.
  • In the final match of the final event in the WEC promotion, Anthony Pettis and Benson Henderson had split the first four rounds going into the fifth. With time running down, Pettis unleashed one of the craziest moves in MMA history, jumping off the fence and nailing Henderson in the face with the same foot. It somehow didn't knock Henderson out (though it did send him to the canvas), but did seal a decision win for Pettis and won him the promotion's lightweight championship.
  • Australia's 1999 Cricket World Cup results were a lot like this in the later matches. Their final match in the Round Robin Super Six stage against South Africa was won with only two balls remaining. Their semi-final match, also against South Africa resulted in a tie after a mix-up on the final ball allowed one of the South African batsman to be run out, resulting in a tie and allowing Australia to advance to the final due to a higher net run-rate.
  • ComedySportz. This is a popular improvisational theater "sport" played around the world. It's played between two teams trying to get laughs from the audience. Because their goal is only to get laughs, they don't really care who wins or loses. As a result of this, they will do what the audience wants, and they know that the audience will like it when it is down to the last point. As such, a referee will always go out of his/her way in order to make the scores even, by being more strict or more lenient on the given teams. Players will do this as well, by trying to lose if they are winning by a landslide. The most frequent players even lampshade this, by commenting that it seems to happen a lot.
  • The final of the netball competition at the 2010 Commonwealth Games between Australia and New Zealand ended up lasting nearly one-and-a-half times longer than a normal netball game. After 60 minutes, the scores were tied and the game went into extra time of seven minutes each way. After that didn't separate them, the game went into double extra time where the first team to be two goals ahead of the other wins. Ten minutes later, 84 minutes after the game started, New Zealand managed to get two goals ahead of Australia and win the game 66-64, and the gold medal.
  • Giro d'Italia 2012 has the battle between Hesjedal and Rodriguez in the final time trial on the final stage. 28.2 km against the clock, where Rodriguez had a lead of 31 seconds before the stage. While Rodriguez put up one of the best time trials of his career, it wasn't enough to hold off the Canadian, leaving Hesjedal to win the Giro, the first Grand Tour by a Canadian.
  • In a one-day international cricket match in February 1981, when New Zealand was six runs behind Australia on the final ball, and New Zealand needed to score a six off the final ball to tie the game. This lead to the infamous underarm bowling incident in which bowler Trevor Chappell bowled the ball slow underarm, not illegal but incredibly unsportsmanlike, so it was impossible for batsman Brian McKechnie to even score a single run off it. The incident was condemned by both Australian and New Zealand cricket fans, and even each country's respective Prime Ministers.
    • Downplayed as it was unlikely that New Zealand would have scored a six off the last ball. McKechnie was a lower-order batsman (number 10 out of 11), facing his first ball, at a venue famous for its large boundary.
  • When a volleyball tiebreaker surpasses the regular 15 points and is forced to the "team only clinches it after getting a two point advantage" rule it gets particularly nail-biting. If it reaches the 25 points of regular sets - or even surpasses it - both audience and players will be nervous beyond any description.
  • Similarly, playoffs in ice hockey can get exciting when games go into overtime, because in the playoffs the game doesn't end until one team scores the tiebreaking goal. The excitement grows even more when the game can be a series-clincher (more so if it's for the championship), and especially if it's the rubber game (the last in the series, usually game seven).
  • In 1992 Winter Olympics, gold medal favorite Midori Ito looked unlikely to win a medal at all, thanks to the disastrous short program she skated (she was crumbling under the intense pressure to win). Literally at the last minute of her long program, she threw in her signature triple Axel jump (she was the first woman to ever land one), resulting in her winning the silver medal.
  • By pure chance, at the 2012 Olympics, all but one of the individual finals in women's gymnastics had a major moment in the final routine.
    • In the all-around final, Russian Viktoria Komova, who had had the top qualifying score in the all-around and ended the third rotation trailing Gabby Douglas by less than four-tenths of a point, was the last competitor to perform on floor exercise. Komova outscored Douglas on floor, but not by enough of a margin to make up the difference, and ultimately placed second to Douglas by about two and a half tenths.
    • The vault final was not expected to end this way, as it seemed like a Foregone Conclusion that American McKayla Maroney, who qualified with a score that left everyone else in the dust, would win...until Maroney, the second-to-last competitor, slipped and fell on the landing of her second vault. Then it became a Down to the Last Play situation because, in spite of the error, Maroney still scored well enough (due largely to her solid first vault) that she ended up in the lead, but with a much more surmountable score, and the one remaining competitor, Romanian Sandra Izbasa, had qualified in second behind only Maroney, so there was now a real question as to whether Izbasa could score high enough to beat Maroney. She did, and Maroney's reaction became legendary.
    • The balance beam final actually went beyond the last play because American Aly Raisman, the final competitor, petitioned for a re-evaluation of her difficulty score after initially placing fourth. The judges accepted the petition and raised her score by a tenth, pushing her into third place.
    • The aforementioned Sandra Izbasa was also the final competitor on floor, an event where she was expected to factor into the medals and had the potential to possibly win gold: she was the reigning Olympic champion on the event, had qualified in second place by a fairly narrow marginnote , and had outscored Aly Raisman, the current leader, on floor in the all-around final. This one actually came down not just to the last competitor, but the last element; Izbasa was on track to likely medal until her final pass, when she failed to get a good rebound in a combination sequence and crashed the second flip to her knees, dropping her into last place.
  • In individual gymnastics finals, the competition order is chosen by random draw some time in advance, so it's completely down to chance (both in terms of rank positioning and in terms of how tight the competition is) whether the last routine in a given final will be a realistic threat, and for which medals. Which is why many fans found it funny when the draw for the 2019 Gymnastics World Championships randomly had the top qualifier, who is by definition a big medal threat, going up last in four out of five finals, pretty much guaranteeing those finals would end this way.
  • Many chess world championship matches were decided in the very last game, for instance, Lasker vs. Schlechter 1910 (Lasker had to win the last game to retain and won), Karpov vs. Korchnoi 1978 (the match went from 5-2 to 5-5, and then Karpov managed to win the last game and retain), Kasparov vs. Karpov 1985 (Karpov had to win the last game to retain, but lost), Kasparov vs. Karpov 1987 (Kasparov had to win the last game to retain and won), Kramnik vs. Leko 2004 (Kramnik had to win the last game to retain and won).
  • In general, chess tiebreaks in tournaments (including World Championships, after the defending champion no longer retained the title when level on points with the challenger) involve pairs of games with progressively decreasing time on the clock, culminating in one deciding "armageddon" game where Black gets less time on the clock, but gets draw odds i.e. wins if the game ends in a draw.
  • In badminton, a match is decided by the best of three games. Each game requires one side to win by scoring 21 points, or two more points than the opponent, whichever is higher. To shorten match times however, a cap of 30 points was added, so if the score is 29-29, the one who scores the next point wins the game. As a result, this trope comes into play when this happens in the third and final game of the match.
  • The 2018 NCAA Super Six team final for women's gymnastics came Down To The Last Routine for UCLA, who hadn't won a national championship in eight years and were up against the scoring machine that was the University of Oklahoma. In a moment that couldn't have fulfilled this trope any better if it was scripted by movie writers, the title came down to the very last routine for UCLA. Peng Peng Lee, a third-year seniornote  and The Heart of the team, who had already scored a perfect 10 on bars earlier that night, needed an all-but-perfect score to put the Bruins over the top after the team had struggled in the first two rotations. She delivered the performance of her life, scored yet another perfect 10, and clinched the title for the Bruins by five hundredths of a point over Oklahoma. It really has to be seen to be believed.
  • A boxing case happened at the 2020 Olympic Games. Oleksandr Khyzhniak won the first two rounds. The third and final one had Hebert Conceição managing to connect a punch to the face that sent the opponent to the ground, knockout and gold medal!
  • Competitive board games aren't immune from this. The 2018 North American Scrabble Championship came down to a final match between Nigel Richards and Joel Sherman, both former champions. Richards led most of the match, but thanks to a fortuitous blank pull, Sherman bingoed outnote  with STR[i]NGS to win the title.
  • Eurovision Song Contest has seen a few very tight finishes in the finals.
    • 1988 - Switzerland beat the United Kingdom by one pointnote . Which would be the narrowest margin of victory until
    • 1991 - Wherein France and Sweden finished level on points, with Sweden winning by getting more sets of 10 points (they had tied on the first tie-breaker, as both got the same number of 12pts).note 
    • 1998 - With just Macedonia left to vote, Israel and Malta were tied on points. Macedonia would give Israel 6pts and Malta 0.
    • 2003 - With just Slovenia left to vote, Turkey, Belgium and Russia could still all win. As a result, the televoting announcer jokingly walked away before giving the votes (and Turkey the win).
    • The Melodifestivalen-inspired voting system in place from 2016 – each jury announces in turn, then total televote points are added in ascending order – is deliberately designed to prevent runaway winners and heighten the drama of the results portion of the show (working incredibly well each time it's been used, with the possible exception of 2017, when Bulgaria would've needed a very big margin in televotes in order to defeat Portugal).
  • The 2019 Cricket World Cup final went down to the final ball twice - first with England being bowled out on 241 runs on their very last ball, forcing a tie-break Super Over, then again when New Zealand were only able to equal England's 15 tie break runs, causing them to lose on the final decider (namely which side had the most boundaries hit during the game). Even on that final ball, it all came down literally to one play: a run out of Martin Guptil by Jason Roy and Jos Buttler: a split-second throw to down the bails before Guptil could make the winning run. Nasser Hussain comments: "It came down to one bit of fielding. After seven weeks, could he get back for two? Could the throw come in? It did. Could Buttler get it back to the stumps on time?" The sheer drama of this final, as well as the stakes involved, have quickly made this match a candidate for the best match ever in the history of the One Day International format. A few months later, the ICC instituted an Obvious Rule Patch to allow for multiple Super Overs in the event of a tie rather than going to boundaries.
  • In many stunt competitions, such as halfpipe snowboarding, the scoring is set up so that each contender has X runs, and the ranking is done against the best score of each contender. So it's entirely possible for someone to utterly fail in the early runs and then take the lead by having an incredible performance in their final run. And if the last person going on the last run isn't already defending a first place position, then the question of whether they bring home the gold (or possibly any medal at all) depends on that run.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Casey Effect


Molly Wins the Game

Hazel's team is winning by one point and they just need one more strike to get the final player out to win. When Hazel loses her pitcher, Molly steps in to be the pitcher and wins the game thanks to Owen teaching her his "Spin and Flick" throw.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / DownToTheLastPlay

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