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Lifesaving Misfortune

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"There's a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse... and everybody in the village says, 'how wonderful. The boy got a horse' And the Zen master says, 'we'll see.' Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, 'How terrible.' And the Zen master says, 'We'll see.' Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight... except the boy can't cause his leg's all messed up. And everybody in the village says, 'How wonderful.'" note 
Gust Avrokatos, Charlie Wilson's War

Misfortune is common in life. We suffer minor misfortunes like stubbed toes or accidentally dropping things. We suffer major misfortunes like broken limbs or loss of money. But sometimes, these misfortunes have an unexpected and lucky consequence: preventing us from a bigger misfortune, up to death (if not worse).

For example, Alice is late for a meeting. She runs down the sidewalk to try to make it. She sees the bus about to leave and runs even faster. Unfortunately, she doesn't see the rock she then trips over. As she's picking herself back up, she sees the bus drive off without her.

So, Alice waits for a taxi and takes that to her meeting. As she's riding the taxi, the driver has to take a detour due to an accident. Alice later finds out the accident was that the bus she almost boarded crashed with no survivors.

Alice has just had a Lifesaving Misfortune. If she hadn't suffered the misfortune (missing the bus), she would have died (in the bus crash). Also see Unluckily Lucky and Serendipitous Survival. Often involves an inversion of Unwitting Instigator of Doom. Occasionally results in the affected character gaining a Disability Superpower. If this misfortune causes someone to end up saving the day, they've become an Accidental Hero. Also look at Spanner in the Works for when this "misfortune" winds up letting a character throw a wrench in someone else's plans that would have lead to actual misfortune.

Subtrope of Necessary Fail. Compare Happily Failed Suicide. Saved by the Punishment is a specific subtrope, in which this trope occurs because of a penalty inflicted on the person saved.

Subversion of Disaster Dominoes.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Chainsaw Man: During a fight in a mall, Yoshida, Kishibe, and Aldo all get defenestrated by Quanxi. The first survives the fall thanks to his contract power, the other two thanks to a Car Cushion. This saves all three when everyone still in the mall is Dragged Off to Hell, which few survived.
  • Expecting to Fall into Ruin, I Aim to Become a Blacksmith: The protagonist Kururi, for the grand opening of the passenger train line he invented, accepted applications in the form of a raffle to draw from. Since his wife decided to read through them and cherry pick some winners, Kururi goes back at a later time to put them back in the box to draw fairly, but he throws out the application written by his father Toral saying he wants to see the results of his son's hard work. This turns out to be favorable, because the passenger train ride turns into a Hostage Situation involving a potential Suicide Attack, and Toral is a Lovable Coward.
  • In In This Corner of the World, Suzu plans to move back to her family in Hiroshima after the death of Harumi and the loss of her right hand takes a toll on her, but is only able to get a doctor's appointment the day of the atomic bombing, meaning she's still in Kure when the bomb is dropped.
  • Played for Laughs in Nichijou: One manga chapter has Mio blow all of her money trying to buy a chopping board from an uncooperative vending machine, only to end up with a miniature version of said board. A few chapters later, Nakanojou unknowingly strikes a nail so hard it flies straight towards Mio; since she had stored the board in her school uniform's pocket, it stopped the nail from piercing her heart, to her horror.
  • One Piece:
    • In the Baratie arc, the reason the remaining one hundred pirates of Don Krieg's armada (including Krieg himself) survived their initial journey into the Grand Line is because a horrible storm struck their flagship, the Dreadnought Sabre — which prevented Dracule Mihawk from slicing them into pieces like the other forty-nine ships in the fleet.
    • The Sabaody arc ends with the Straw Hats being taken out one by one by Bartholomew Kuma, but what they don't realize at first is that he was actually saving them, sending them from a place where they would almost certainly die to several far-off locations where they could recuperate, and in Luffy's case, also give him a chance to rescue Ace.
    • In a flashback to Robin's Dark and Troubled Past, the citizens of her hometown Ohara refuse to let her board the evacuation ship meant to spare them from the destruction of the island by a Buster Call. However, then vice-admiral Sakazuki blows up the evacuation ship to make sure no scholar escapes with forbidden knowledge. If the citizens hadn't been such jerks and had let Robin board the ship, there would have been no survivors.
  • In Sailor Moon, during the princess training episode, the students, including Ami and Makoto, pass while Usagi, Rei and Minako fail. It was because the three failed that they were spared from getting turned into plaster statues. The Monster of the Week was using the princess training classes as a trap to lure out Sailor Moon, accurately anticipating that the real Sailor Moon would be too much of a ditz to pass the class. Hilariously and more insulting for Usagi, both Rei and Minako noted that the youma has a good strategy.
  • Sword Art Online inverts this with Merida, one of the founding members of the Sleeping Knights. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor shortly before Sword Art Online's launch day, and couldn't participate. Unfortunately, her tumor was the type that had a 70% chance of killing her, whereas "only" 40% of the players in SAO died. Merida became desperate to get into SAO so that if she died, she could at least help her friends, but luckily, Yuuki and Ran talked her out of it. Sadly, Merida eventually died of her tumor anyway, and her friends' fates are unknown.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs: In the main story, Olivia is subject to a Hijacked Destiny at the hands of Marie, who steals all of her wealthy and popular Love Interests that she had from the Dating Sim our protagonist Leon was transmigrated into. In the Alternate Timeline Marie Route Side Story series, however, Marie is prevented from interfering by Leon, and it turns out that said male Love Interests unwanted advances, which Olivia can’t turn down because she’s a Penny Among Diamonds, made her life a living hell that goes From Bad to Worse in a Trauma Conga Line.

    Comic Books 
  • One Archie Comics book had Archie upset about missing school due to being sick and not being able to see his friends...only for Jughead to come and visit him later, dazed about a surprise quiz in one of their subjects that probably no one in the class had passed.
  • During the Scourge saga in the Captain America comic, the Water Wizard suffered a flat tire that made him late to a meeting of supervillains to discuss what to do about the vigilante Scourge. When he finally got there, he discovered Scourge had murdered everybody at the meeting.
  • Sin City: In "Wrong Turn," Eddie Dubois (a jewel thief selling his goods on the mob's turf) gets a flat tire which keeps him from driving into an ambush where Delia is waiting to kill him. Unfortunately for Eddie, this only buys him a few hours before Delia tracks him down in the sequel story "Wrong Track."
  • Superman:
    • One arc sees Jimmy Olsen way, way down on his luck, losing his job at the Planet, and missing a job interview by missing his train. The train is attacked by the Parasite, and he drains the passengers down to clothed skeletons, which are found at the next stop. Jimmy decides his luck may not be so bad after all.
    • The residents of Kandor spend decades shrunken to microscopic size and being treated as a collector's item by an evil android who takes them from their home world. What makes this life-saving is that Kandor was a city on Krypton and its people would have died in the planet's destruction if Brainiac had left them there.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In The Grateful Beasts, the king locks the princess in a tower because she objects to the tasks he demands of Ferko, just before the last task, which was to summon all the wolves in the realm. The wolves make short work of everyone else in the court; Ferko, chosen to succeed her father, sets her free and marries her.

    Fan Works 
  • In Arc of the Revolution Amber's horse is stolen by Jaune so she avoids Cinder, Emerald, and Mercury's ambush. As a result, part of her Aura is never stolen and she is never left comatose as her life slowly drains away.
  • Better Bones AU: Cinderpelt, Littlecloud, and Leafpool (then called Leafstripe) are late to the Moonstone gathering of clerics when Mothermouth, the cave around the Moonstone, collapses due to human construction and kills two of the other clerics, Mudfur and Barkface. This allows the three to avoid getting killed themselves.
  • Blessed with a Hero's Heart: Izuku's trip to the front lines to face the Devil King ends up getting interrupted when he runs into a group of bandits attacking a carriage and is forced to stop to help, and then go back to Axel so the sick Princess Iris can receive medical attention. This results in him being there to face the Mobile Fortress Destroyer, saving the town and everyone in it.
  • The titular Akuma of Couturiere stabs Chat Noir in the leg, which results in his civilian self transforming back covered in blood. This leads Gabriel to believe that Couturiere kidnapped his son Adrien from his home and injured him in his escape. This ensures that Marinette will not be akumatized in the foreseeable future.
  • In Don't Look, Shinji tells Misato about how he met the Slender Man: When he was ten and leaving school for the day, Slender Man approached him and the other kids with an offer of friendship, and asked the kids to come back to school later that night. Shinji, excited at the thought of making a friend, tried to do so, but got in trouble for seemingly stealing a bike on the way there. This unfortunate delay saved his life since all of the other kids who arrived on time were murdered.
  • Harry Potter from If Wishes Were Ponies finds himself beaten within an inch of his life in Little Whinging by his cousin Dudley and his cronies and on the verge of dying. Due to the crappy life he's forced to live: having to put up with other adults and authorities instantly believing the Dursleys' slander of Harry being a troublemaker and other kids treating him as a Scapegoat had left Harry a highly-suicidal messnote  It is when he wished to be far away from his life that he met all the right conditions to pass through a Tree-based Portal that he fell through which deposited him in The Land of Equestria; where after he was sent to the hospital and made friends with the Cutie Mark Crusaders he was able to get a much better life as a normal Unicorn Colt living in Ponyville with Twilight Sparkle as his caretaker eventually becoming his mother.
  • The King Nobody Wanted: Jamie mentions that Aerys kicked Lord Rosby out of King's Landing for coughing during a feast and made Lord Ryyker leave as well for arguing on Rosby's behalf, but feels that this probably saved their lives due to how most of Aerys' remaining courtiers ended up being killed by their Ax-Crazy monarch, mobs of angry people, or Jamie himself.
  • The Odds Were Never In My Favour: Montague bungles the second task of the Triwizard Tournament in an Epic Fail manner that makes him a laughingstock and earns him no points. However, if he'd lasted longer, he'd have faced Alexandra (who's infinitely more powerful) in a duel. That being said, everyone is convinced that a Cheated Death, Died Anyway fate awaits him once the third task starts.
  • Second Wind: As Luffy notes in his thoughts, the Krieg Pirates running into Mihawk was this for Gin. While a lot of his crew mates died, Gin himself survived and the incident is what eventually led him to stop following Don Krieg, whose ego would've led to him Bullying a Dragon and gotten them all killed before they even had a chance to think about entering the New World, even if they hadn't ran into Mihawk.
  • The Victors Project: It's hard to imagine a teenage girl suffering a fever severe enough to put you into a life-threatening coma as having a positive side, at least until that fever/coma causes her to be the first ever tribute reaped for the Hunger Games to be excused from participating. Of course, it's never revealed whether or not she survived that fever as her final fate is unrevealed.
  • The Weaver Option: The House Attica fell from grace with the ruling nobles of Nyx several generations back and has largely been excluded from high society and Hive business as a result. When Taylor becomes Governor and begins purging the corrupt nobility, Attica is spared because they had no opportunity to become corrupt.
  • We Must Be Killers: Near the end of Make Us Proud, Alec talks to a former Peacekeeper who was injured early in the Mockingjay Rebellion. She came out of a coma to learn that everyone else in her graduating class died on the front lines.
  • In YuyaVision, apparently the reason Jaden Yuki was never in Academia was because he failed his written exams. Good thing too, since he would've been a brainwashed pawn to Leo Akaba and nigh undefeatlabe.
  • You’re About Seven Years Too Early: Hop Pop chose to use Sloth Postal, both the cheapest and slowest mail service in Amphibia, to send his letter to Sal in Newtopia regarding Anne. While this means Marcy doesn't learn that Anne is alive and in Wartwood until nearly a year after the girls arrive in Amphibia, it also gives Andrias an extra year to plan against the Core and finish his EMP.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Apollo 13: Ken Mattingly ends up having to miss the titular mission due to coming down with a case of German Measles and as a result he ends up being in a position to help guide the crew and save their lives after an electrical short causes an explosion resulting in their rocket going adrift in space.
  • In The Avengers, Tony Stark implies to Bruce that his Freak Lab Accident might have been this.
    • In Avengers: Endgame, Bruce, having gone through a Personality Merge with the Hulk, starts to believe this too when it’s revealed that the Infinity Stones give off harmful gamma radiation, which Hulk is able to resist, and volunteers to wield the Gauntlet to bring the snapped victims back, citing he’d be the only one in the group with a chance at surviving its power. He still gets severely injured and burned but indeed survives and fares much better than Thanos (who had lost the use of his gauntlet wielding arm) and Tony (who was fatally injured) did.
  • Charlie Wilson's War: Discussed in Gus' Zen Master story, which is about a boy who gets a horse, loses the use of his legs in a riding accident, but is then excluded from the draft when a war breaks out and all the young men in the village except him are killed. Charlie does grasp the moral in not assuming that it might not turn out to be a case of misfortune after all. As the Zen Master says: "We'll see."
  • Dance of the Dead: The main characters are all people who didn't go to the prom for one reason or another (Jimmy and Lindsay breaking up earlier that day, Nash and his band failing their audition to play for the prom, Gwen's date getting sick etc.) and would have probably been turned into zombies like almost everyone else there if they had gone.
  • Final Destination: This trope forms a core premise of the series. A handful of people survive a disaster where they should have died because some dudes/gals have a crazy premonition and do something that is seen as a hindrance to them at first, but is lifesaving in hindsight. For instance:
    • In the first movie, the guy with the vision gets into a fight with a jock, both are escorted out of the plane alongside the former's best friend, the latter's girlfriend, and another student who chooses to believe the guy's vision, then a teacher gets off as well to pacify them, and a student who is late checking in does not board the plane at all because of the commotion blocking his way. As a result, the seven end up becoming the only survivors of the plane when it crashes.
    • In the third film, two kids who nearly board the fateful rollercoaster ride are ejected out because they don't fit the height limit. As a result, they are written off of Death's List completely.
  • The Four Days of Naples: The Nazis occuping Naples are dragooning the men of the town to take back to Germany as slave labor. Some Italians hustle down to the harbor, hoping to get a boat and sail it down the coast to the American lines. They reach the bay only to find out that some other men beat them there and commandeered the last boat. As the men on shore watch, the boat puts out to sea, only to be intercepted by a German patrol boat, which opens fire and kills everyone onboard.
  • The Hobbit:
    • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has a variation. Bard's kids probably owe their lives to Bofur drinking himself into a stupor in Laketown. If he hadn't missed the boat, Fíli would be the one sent to find kingsfoil, leaving only the elderly Oin and the incapacitated Kíli to fight off the Orcs until Legolas and Tauriel arrived.
    • In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, when the Master of Laketown and Alfrid flee on a large boat from Smaug, the latter complains that they are too heavy and too slow, so the Master tosses him in the water. Minutes later, Smaug's corpse falls on the boat, killing the Master, while Alfrid survives and becomes a Karma Houdini — for a couple of days, anyway. In the Extended Edition, he dies in a bizarre and humorous manner while trying to desert Dale during the battle.
  • A brief scene in Interstate 60 features this. An executive is getting out of his car when a cyclist crashes into his car door, as a result of which the executive realizes he will be late for an extremely important meeting. Frustrated, he wishes that the event in question had never happened, which is granted by the cyclist. This time around, the executive gets out of his car safely, but is too distracted by his phone call to notice the enormous truck coming his way, which fatally runs him over.
  • The Island (2005): One of the clones has been in the facility 7 years without winning the Lottery and thinks he's jinxed. He doesn't know that the Lottery means the clone will be killed and harvested for their organs to benefit their donors in the real world. In other words, his donor is living such a safe and healthy life up to that point that he hasn't needed the organs.
  • Jojo Rabbit: Getting himself accidentally blasted by a grenade means Jojo isn't drafted like all the other Hitler Youth.
  • In Jurassic Park III, one of the mercenaries mentions that there was a fourth member of their team who came down with the flu a couple days before they left, so he couldn't make the trip. Considering the three mercenaries who did go all end up being eaten by dinosaurs, the guy who got the flu is the lucky one.
  • In Kangaroo Jack, the protagonists are tasked with delivering $50,000 to a mysterious "Mr. Smith", which goes awry when one of them puts the jacket with the money on the titular 'roo. As it later turns out, had they delivered the money to Mr. Smith, he would have killed them as they were unknowingly paying him to do.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: As Jack points out to Barbossa, had his former first mate not committed mutiny and exiled Jack, he would have gone to Isle de Muerta, found the treasure and been struck with the same curse as the Black Pearl's crew.
  • In Prey (2022), Naru and her brother Taabe are captured by French trappers who use them as bait to lure out the Predator so that they can ambush it. However, this being the Predator, it doesn't want bait, it wants sport, meaning that Naru and Taabe are actually in the safest spot possible while the Predator goes straight for the trappers.
  • Star Wars: In A New Hope, after Han Solo disrupts Darth Vader's attempt to shoot Luke's X-Wing by blasting one of his Tie-Fighter wingmen, the other loses control of his ship and sends Vader's Tie-Fighter spiraling into space. As a result of this, however, Vader ends up being the only one to survive the destruction of the Death Star, allowing him to pull a Villain: Exit, Stage Left and return to plague the heroes for the remainder of the trilogy.
  • For a relatively minor misfortune, in the B-Movie Super Shark the losing competitors in the Queen of the Beach bikini contest experience this due to the Queen and runner-up being eaten by the eponymous shark the next day while at the beach, posing for a newspaper photographer.
  • Titanic: Applies to the two Swedish men who lose a card game, and with it their tickets on the Titanic, to Jack Dawson and Fabrizio.
  • World War Z: People with serious medical conditions (Ellis, the wino, etc.) avoid being attacked by the zombies.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: Barely averted, then played straight. Scott Summers convinces Jean Grey, Kurt Wagner, and Jubilee to sneak off school premises to go to the mall. They get back to school to find it blown up amidst Charles getting kidnapped, which, had Peter/Quicksilver not been on his way to the school, would have killed everyone inside. Then when Scott finds out his brother Alex/Havok isn't with everyone, he runs over to the building debris and realizes Alex was killed, with Jean and Kurt not far behind to provide comfort. So when Colonel Stryker comes and knocks the evacuated crowd out and kidnaps Raven (Mystique), Hank (Beast), Peter and Moira Mc Taggert, Scott, Jean, and Kurt are able to hide from his troops then sneak aboard Stryker's helicopter to the base site where they rescue the four, set free Wolverine, and find out where Charles was taken.

  • There's a Chinese fable where a man's horse runs away. He and his son go looking for it, find it frolicking alongside twenty wild horses, and capture them all. The man's son tries to break in one of the horses, but it rears up and breaks his leg. While he is waiting for it to heal, war breaks out, and every able-bodied young man is drafted, sparing him. Every time the man's fortune seems to go up or down and people congratulate/feel sorry for him, he only answers "We'll see."
  • A Jewish tale tells of how Rabbi Akiva traveled with a candle, a rooster, and a donkey: the candle so he could study the Torah at night, the rooster - his alarm clock - to wake him up to study the Torah, and finally the donkey to carry his possessions. Rabbi Akiva stopped at a city. He tried to get lodging at an inn but there was no room available. Rabbi Akiva went from house to house but nobody would let him in. So what did he do? He walked into the neighboring woods and set up camp. All of a sudden, a strong wind kicked up and extinguished the candle. A few moments later, a ferocious lion emerged from behind his tent and killed his donkey. What was left? The rooster. A ravenous cat appeared and devoured it. Rabbi Akiva was completely stuck. What did he say? "whatever God does, must be for the good." The next morning, Rabbi Akiva discovered that a band of robbers had attacked the town during the night, mercilessly killing the people and stealing their money. The robbers escaped into the forest. If they had seen the candle, or heard the noise of the rooster and donkey, Rabbi Akiva would have met the same fate as the townspeople. God had saved his life by extinguishing his candle and taking his animals.

  • In the backstory to the Lone Wolf series, the player character was the only one who survived the massacre of the Kai Order because he had been gathering firewood away from the monastery as a punishment for misbehavior. When he saw the monastery on fire, he began to run back but hit his head on a branch, fell unconscious, and didn't wake up until long after the villains had killed everyone inside the monastery and left without discovering him.

  • In the J.A. Johnstone western Ambush of the Mountain Man, Carl Jacoby was a crony of a Plot-Irrelevant Villain from a previous book (the spoiled Young Gun son of the local Cattle Baron) who was sick in bed with flu when his buddies picked a fight with The Gunslinger and were all gunned down. Carl initially sets out trying to help the Young Guns father and sister get revenge. He does a quick Heel–Face Turn after seeing just how fast on the draw their target is and realizing that 1) his friends died in a fair fight that they were responsible for picking and 2) that anyone seeking revenge is likely to get killed.
  • In an Irish short story, An tÁdh, 3 boys want to sneak off to a market, and one of them, Pádraig comes up with a plan where they will hide on a boat transporting pigs covered in blankets disguised as pigs themselves. Unfortunately, one has to be left behind to cover and make room for the others. They draw lots to decide who and poor old Pádraig has to miss the market. However, bad weather hits and the boat sinks, drowning everyone on board.
  • Black Tide Rising:
    • In "Social Distance," a group of teenagers are signed up for an intense outdoor survival course by their parents to shape them up after (mostly minor) acts of delinquency. Being outside of the city when the zombies rise makes this punishment ultimately beneficial for them.
    • In "Maligator County," the protagonist observes that tourists would have certainly brought the zombie infection to the area if the owner of the only tourist site hadn't closed it down for a few weeks. The reason he closed it down was to devote more time to helping two relatives with health issues.
  • A Brother's Price: Three of the four older sisters who survived the opera bombing all only did so due to circumstances that would have otherwise been completely unpleasant: Odelia being grounded for a minor act of misbehavior, Trini being bedridden after Keifer beat her, and Ren getting upset because the opera performance was based on a dark moment in her family's history and running outside crying.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In Slayer, Honora recalls how Helen assigned her all kinds of crummy undercover work due to being rivals with her mother, although this meant she was in the field and not at the London headquarters when Caleb blew it up.
  • In The Call of the Wild, Buck (a sled dog) is beaten to within an inch of his life by his cruel owner, before being saved. The owner leaves Buck behind and he and the rest of the sled dogs die when the ice gives way just a short ways out of camp.
  • In the science fiction story The Day of the Triffids, the protagonist (and a handful of other characters) miss a spectacular meteor shower for reasons varying from being hospitalized to being on the run from the police to having to work the night shift at a coal mine. The next day, however, it's revealed that the meteor shower blinded everyone who witnessed it, leaving them utterly helpless against the titular killer plants.
  • In the Dirk Pitt Adventures novel Vixen 03, Thomas Machita is betrayed by Randolph Jumana and thrown in a jail cell to await execution. The execution never comes because the South African Defense Forces attack the compound that night. The construction of the cell prevents him from being crushed when the building is blown up. Machita ends up being the only known survivor of the attack.
  • In Dune Messiah, Muad'Dib knows that his wife Irulan is poisoning his consort Chani to prevent her from conceiving a child. He tolerates this because his precognitive abilities have shown him that Chani will die in childbirth, and thus Irulan is actually prolonging her life. Eventually, Chani adopts a strict diet that makes it impossible for Irulan to keep slipping contraceptives into her food, and thus becomes pregnant. She dies after giving birth to twins.
  • Eye of a Fly: When Annie was thirteen, she tried to throw herself and her baby brother off a bridge because her father planned to force her into prostitution to pay for his addiction and she thought the whole family would be better off dead. Instead she fell down and was run over by a truck, resulting in brain damage that destroyed her ability to read and left her with regular seizures. She now considers the truck accident to be a gift from God because it saved her life.
  • The Lando Calrissian Adventures
    • Gepta seeks revenge on Lando due to blaming him for Geptas failure to take the Mindharp of Sharu for himself and use it, never mind that doing so would have killed him.
    • When Zero Squadron pursues Lando, Shanga observes many fighters were lost in the stellar void and quite probably some are still alive but simply turned around and "some of them might even live past this adventure because they'd lost touch with their comrades."
  • The Last Days of Krypton: When Krypton's core first begins to destabilize, this causes a series of massive tidal waves which strike Argo City, killing or injuring scores of people and causing a great deal of damage. This disaster motivates Mayor Zor-El to reinforce the seawall with a powerful force field to protect the city from future waves. Instead, that force field saves Argo City and everyone inside its boundaries from General Zod's army (which unsuccessfully attempts to invade and then bombard the city) and the destruction of their entire planet.
  • There is a short story in Russian called The Lucky One, about a woman whose entire life was a string of these.
  • The Mad Scientists' Club: In "The Cool Caravan," Charlie's dad locking up his bike to punish his son for not doing chores causes the club to be late in responding to a burglar alarm at their secondary clubhouse (the eponymous cavern). Then, once Charlie arrives, there's a cave-in just before they can go inside, meaning Charlie's lateness saves their lives.
  • This happens as part of the Cruel Twist Ending in Mildred D. Taylor's Mississippi Bridge (a side story in the Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry universe). When a commuter bus is overcrowded, the driver forces the African-American passengers off to make room for a group of late-arriving white passengers (the book is set in the Jim Crow era, at which time such things were common practice), physically throwing one man off the bus when he refuses. Shortly thereafter, the bus careens off the eponymous bridge and into the water below, leaving no survivors. The protagonist realizes that the bus driver's racism saved the lives of the African-American would-be passengers.
  • In The Overstory, Nicholas Hoel's car breaks down while returning home to a family reunion and he is hours late to return home. When he gets home, he finds that his whole extended family has been killed by a buildup of toxic gas in the building, which he was lucky enough to miss.
  • Bob Lee Swagger: In the Action Prologue of Sniper's Honor, the Wehrmacht loser of a World War II Sniper Duel survives but suffers a horrible shoulder wound. That shoulder wound gets him evacuated from Stalingrad just hours before his unit is forced to surrender and sent to The Gulag, where nearly all of them die.
  • In the J.A. Johnstone western novel Texas Gundown, Eastern Dry Goods merchant Seymour Standish is sent to the infamous frontier town of Sweet Apple, Texas as part of a Uriah Gambit by his Evil Uncle. The town averages one murder per day and Seymour's uncle expects that with his general helplessness, Seymour will be easy pickings, at which point his uncle will inherit Seymour's shares of the family-owned company. After an embarrassing encounter with a local tough guy, Seymour gets dubbed "Seymour the Lily-livered" by nearly the entire town due to a malicious newspaper story. However, this humiliating moniker causes all of the various bullies and killers of the town to go out of their way not to kill Seymour, as picking a fight with such a notoriously "lily-livered" person would be damaging to their Villain Cred (a state of affairs which lasts until Seymour starts getting tougher and is able to fight back when someone does try to kill him).
  • In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout is so embarrassed about botching her role in the town's Halloween pageant that she refuses to take off her ham costume when she and Jem are walking home. It ends up saving her life when Bob Ewell attacks them; her father and the sheriff find a line along the metal frame that indicates that Ewell slashed at it with a knife.
  • The Wind Knows My Name: Part of Leticia's backstory. When she was a child, The Salvadoran Civil War was happening and her village was destroyed during what later was known as El Mozote massacre. Only she and her father escaped the slaughter because she was suffering from serious stomach troubles, and they had to travel out of town to go to the hospital.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 9-1-1 episode "Dosed", the fire station receives baked goods given by the community as thank-you gifts. One day Chimney notices a new package of brownies only to find out the other firefighters have already eaten them all. Then when the 118 are out on a call, all of them except Chimney start acting high because it turns out those brownies were laced with LSD, obviously very dangerous in their line of work, making it this trope for both Chimney and the injured victim and civilians at the scene that he never got any.
  • Mrs. Maloney's second husband in Alfred Hitchcock Presents's absent-mindedness causes him to leave a freezer unplugged, spoiling a leg of lamb. When his wife attempts to dispose of him the same way she did her first, the meat is too soft to kill him, and she is caught red-handed.
  • A non-fatal variation in The A-Team episode "Holiday in the Hills". Near the beginning of the episode, the team crashes thanks to Murdock having stolen their plane off a repair lot. Some of them, especially B.A., are not at all happy about this. Then, near the end of the episode, the team narrowly escapes Col. Lynch and realizes that, had they not crashed, they would have been right on time to fall into his trap.
    'Hannibal: I love it when a plan comes together.
  • Billions: As it turns out, Axe had been busted for insider trading and was forced to finalize his severance package paperwork at his lawyer's office. This means that he's the only one of his company to not be at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001...
  • In Chespirito, one sketch with Dr. Chapatín has him going to his nurse's wedding, and delaying the ceremony, which angers the groom since they just lost their flight for the honeymoon, but when the nurse called the airport to see if maybe the flight got delayed, she reveals that the plane crashed on takeoff, saving both their lives.
  • On one episode of Crossing Jordan, Macy races another man for a taxi, but loses. He gets to work at the medical examiner's office through other means. One of the bodies that comes in is the other man who was killed when the taxi crashed.
  • A Criminal Minds Serial Killer Of The Week, obsessed with killing people because they seemed to have happier lives than him, mentions in passing that his Greek Mythology obsession (which he's built his motif around) made him want to go to Greece 20 years ago, and he discovers that his Bad Boss got him drunk and prevented him from going to the airport (he couldn't afford another ticket, had to stay at home, and miseries stacked up until he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and let go from his job). The BAU tells him during the final Mexican Standoff that the bus he was supposed to get on to get to his flight had a crash and everybody in it died.
    • In another episode, a previous victim of the Unsub the BAU are chasing tells Hotch and Rossi that at the time, she was a prostitute and a junkie probably days away from a fatal overdose, and surviving the attack motivated her to turn her life around.
  • In the CSI: Miami episode "Time Bomb", a seasonal arc has the team suspicious of their returning teammate Eric Delko’s behavior, not knowing he has also been sent as a mole by Internal Affairs. Calleigh follows and confronts him just before he is about to secretly meet with the state attorney Rebecca Nevins. It ends with them tensely parting ways, but just before he reaches the meeting spot Delko turns back to go after Calleigh, making him just far enough away when a bomb explodes mere seconds later at the spot, killing Nevins. Eric states during the aftermath that had Calleigh not confronted him he would have been killed too. In addition, the evidence he was about to give Nevins ended up being beneficial information for the team towards the case about who has been framing them for misconduct all season.
  • On an episode of Dusty's Trail, the wagon train comes upon a deserted town. Somehow Dusty ends up locking everyone in a jail cell, so they survive when the military shells the town for an exercise (which is why it was deserted).
  • In an episode of Early Edition, Gary is trying to prevent a severe car crash/pile-up on a freeway from happening by redirecting people named in the future-predicting newspaper away from the scene of the accident, but the only thing that changes is who ends up in the accident. Meanwhile, Erica's son Henry goes missing, and she asks Gary to help look for him. Gary realizes that his death by drowning is reported in the newspaper below the car accident, and decides to send Patrick and Marissa to the freeway while he and Erica intercepts Henry at the river. Without a fast means to get there, they steal a car, to the fury of its owner, who needs to get to an important business meeting. After they are able to rescue Henry (with the help of the police), the car's engine burst into flame. It turns out that the car's owner was going to use the freeway to go to his business meeting and that it was his car that would have caused the accident (something that the cops point out to keep the upset man from pressing charges).
  • A variation in the ER episode "Hell And High Water". Doug's car breaking down doesn't save his life, but it allows him to save the life of a young boy trapped in a storm drain, something he wouldn't have discovered had he not broken down at that spot.
  • In Forever, Abe Morgan is a concentration camp survivor. Many decades later, this saves him when he is visited by the immortal serial killer Adam, who immediately notes the "tattoo" on his arm. As Adam himself was experimented on by Dr. Mengele during the war, concentration camp survivors are the only people he will never harm.
  • In one episode of Ghosts (UK), Fanny relates an anecdote about how she missed a cruise she had booked after someone stole her identity and took her place. The ship? Naturally, RMS Titanic. Humorously, she's still annoyed about this rather than relieved, pointing out that everyone had a wonderful time until the iceberg appeared.
  • An episode of Hawaii Five-0 has Det. Danny Williams chaperoning his daughter Grace's school dance and finding out she's dating his co-worker Lou Grover's son William. He pulls William into a bathroom and does the standard Boyfriend-Blocking Dad questioning, just before an armed group arrives and takes everyone in the dance hall hostage. This allows Danny to call his team for backup, and William to provide background information on his classmates to determine why a school dance would be a target.
  • Keep Breathing: Before the events of the series, Liv got extremely drunk and overlooked a fire hazard. When the firefighters pull her out of the blaze, they had to pump her stomach since she was almost dead of alcohol poisoning. The nurse remarks that she was lucky like that.
  • Sometime before the pilot episode of Knight Rider, police officer Michael Long suffers a head injury requiring a metal plate. When his partner betrays him, she shoots him in the head and leaves him for dead. The bullet is deflected by the metal plate. It doesn't do any damage to his vital organs, but his face is severely damaged. Plastic surgery makes him look like David Hasselhoff and he becomes Michael Knight, the show's protagonist.
  • The Last Man on Earth: Glenn has spent five years shipwrecked on a desert island, away from his family. This is probably the only thing that kept him from dying during a global pandemic with only about fifty other known American survivors.
  • Law & Order sometimes uses this trope:
    • In season six's "Jeopardy", all of the employees of a small independent online magazine are brutally murdered, save for the lone survivor who was only spared due to his own order of Chinese food making him sick and he was in the bathroom while the murders happened.
    • In season eleven's "Hubris", four people are killed execution-style in a jewelry store. The manager finds the bodies when she arrives the following day; she wasn't there at the time of the murders because she had to call out of work to care for her sick mother.
    • A season thirteen episode, "The Ring", has the Victim of the Week's boss, a stockbroker who worked in the 89th floor of the World Trade Center, be spared from the attacks due to having root canal surgery. She then remarks "How many people can say that their dentist saved their life?"
    • In "Enemy" in season fifteen, a gangster steals a shipment of heroin from a drug den, and kills everyone present (including several teenage girls buying drugs) so as to leave no witnesses. The only survivor is a girl who wasn't shot because she'd collapsed from an overdose before the arrival of the killer - who presumably thought she was already dead.
    • In season nineteen's "Pledge", a 12-year-old boy named Eric Foley and his friend Todd try to play Madden NFL on the former's Xbox despite that Eric is only allowed to play video games on the weekend. The Foley's housekeeper Grazinya is present and says she will have to tell Eric's parents he is playing video games behind their back. The disappointment causes Todd to leave Eric's place. Afterward, Eric and Grazinya are murdered. When Todd is questioned by Lupo and Bernard about the murders at school, he immediately realizes that had he not left he would have been killed as well.
  • In one Merlin episode, Arthur and the Knights eat all the stew that Merlin made. However, the Villain of the Week shot a hunk of poison into the stew. Because Merlin didn't get any, he's able to save the others and the dragon's egg the bad guy is hunting.
  • One episode of Millennium (1996) has a pair of criminals kidnap a school bus full of children. As Frank and the locals race to find them, a tornado approaches the area. The tornado sweeps over the spot where the criminals are hiding the kids, but the kids are recovered safe and sound. The tornado, however, does kill the two criminals... and destroys the school the children were supposed to be in.
  • In ABC’s A Million Little Things one flashback event shows one of the Ensemble Cast Jon Dixon 17+ years before present time (2018) where he and his old college roommate Dave were flying from Boston to Los Angeles, but Jon stops to buy a bottle of wine last minute at the gift shop, which causes him to arrive at the gate mere seconds after the flight attendant closes the gate door and she adamantly refuses to let him board. He calls Dave (already on the plane) to inform him he’ll have to catch the next flight. Said missed flight was American Airlines 11 that flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. When the news plays on the gate’s TV, he and the flight attendant can only share a shocked, wordless glance to each other.note 
  • My Name Is Earl:
    • One of Earl's misdeeds involves siphoning gas out of a Yugo he found in someone's driveway. After he repays the man by buying him more gas, he discovers he was inadvertently saving his life. The man was suicidal and repeatedly tried to kill himself with the car's exhaust fumes. But since Earl repeatedly siphoned his tank, he kept running out of gas before it could take effect. He previously thought that running out of gas was a sign from God that he should stop trying to kill himself, but goes right back to trying after discovering it was Earl's doing.
    • Another episode has Earl making up to a priest he had wronged, only to discover that another item on his list is actually about the priest as well (though he didn't know it at the time). And then another. And then another. Unfortunately for Earl, this particular priest was formerly a violent gangster who turned over a new leaf after finding faith, and he gets progressively angrier at Earl every time he's revealed to have caused yet another misfortune in his life. Eventually, he snaps and reverts to his gangster persona, intent on killing Earl. It's then that Earl recognizes the priest's truck from the list. He had broken the taillight on it once. The priest immediately stops trying to kill Earl, explaining that the cops had pulled him over for that broken taillight on the way to a deal. Later, he learned that the deal had gone sour and turned into a brutal shootout that killed his entire gang, which would have included him if he had been there. Believing divine intervention had saved him, this event was what had inspired his faith and turned him towards priesthood. In gratitude, he forgives Earl for all of his wrongdoings against him, as Earl had more than made up for them by saving his life.
  • The Nash Bridges episode "Hit and Run" opens with Nash and Joe going to meet with a hacker friend. During the meeting, Nash sees someone trying to steal his '71 Hemi'Cuda. He and Joe go out to intervene. While they're attending to the car thief, a bomb goes off in the hacker's office.
    • This leads to a variation. It turns out that the car thief botched his attempt to steal the 'Cuda so badly, he rendered it inoperable. Thus, Nash is lent a Porsche until the 'Cuda is fixed. Later, the bomber tries again to kill Nash by planting a bomb in the Porsche. He accidentally sets it off, destroying the car. The car thief's failed attempt at his job saved the 'Cuda's life.
  • NYPD Blue: A man's wife is trying to kill him, yet he remains oblivious to her hatred of him. At one point before his story is shown, he was attacked and got his jaw broken. Later, he is shot in the head by a would-be killer but the bullet is deflected by the wires in his jaw, resulting in serious but not fatal injuries. His doctor says it was a one in a million chance that the bullet hit in the exact right spot to save his life.
  • A rare comedic example from Spaced: Tim Bisley survived a dog attack because he was struck by lightning, which scared off the dogs. However, the incident left him with a phobia of both dogs and lightning (and, bamboo, apparently).
  • The Thundermans: "It's Not What You Link"; Phoebe gets suspicious that Max is trying to turn her boyfriend Link evil. To avoid being caught, Max freezes Phoebe in his lair. Meanwhile, Billy and Nora discover Hank's secret hideout. Nora accidentally lasers the security system, causing the three of them to be locked inside. The only way out for the three of them is for Barb to use her electrical powers to cause a power surge in the house. She does just that, which enables the three of the to open the door...and also thaws Phoebe out after being frozen for half a day.
  • In The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Twenty-Two", a dancer refuses to board an airplane because the stewardess reminds her of a recurring nightmare. The plane explodes on takeoff.
  • In episode 16 of The Flash (2014), Cisco gets kidnapped by the Rogues, beaten, and forced to build them weapons, but this prevents him from investigating Dr. Wells as he did in the previous, reset timeline, which got him brutally murdered.
  • In the Seinfeld episode "The Busboy," George and Elaine accidentally get a busboy fired. He is initially angry, especially after George tries to apologize but just ends up making the situation worse. However, he ends up grateful when a gas explosion at the restaurant kills five employees, including his replacement.
  • Sesame Street: A meta example, with the show itself. In the 1980s, Sesame Street and NASA collaborated on a planned publicity stunt to send Big Bird into space aboard the Space Shuttle, but the plan was ultimately scrapped as there was no way that Big Bird (being 8 feet tall) could fit in the Shuttle. NASA then turned to sending teachers into space... and guess how that turned out.
  • Veronica Mars:
    • Veronica is on a bus on the way back from a class trip, but gets off during a pit stop for a bottle of water. Thanks to Meg, the bus leaves without her, and she has to catch a ride on Weevil's bike. Not too far ahead, however, they find out that the bus went over a cliff, killing everyone inside it except Meg (who also dies several episodes later, of lingering injures from the crash and childbirth complications).
    • During the second season, it's discovered that Woody Goodman molested several of the players on the softball team he managed. Keith assists in tracking him down and arresting him, but Sheriff Lamb refuses to let him join them on the plane back to Neptune. This ends up saving Keith's life when Cassidy Casablancas blows up the plane.

  • The Kentucky Cycle: Michael Bowen's horse throws a shoe, which delays his return home. As a consequence he is not there when the local Cherokee kill everyone in the white settlement.

    Video Games 
  • Near the beginning of Assassin's Creed III young Connor stumbles across some Templars in the woods who proceed to beat him up and threaten to kill him. When he comes to and wanders back to his village he finds the whole thing burning and many people, including his mother, dead or dying.
  • Fate/Grand Order:
    • At the beginning of the game, Ritsuka Fujimaru falls asleep during the orientation lecture at Chaldea Security Organization, angering the Director and prompting her to kick them out of the mission to Singularity F. The mission departure is sabotaged with explosives, killing or incapacitating all other Master candidates. This also saves Dr Roman's life, as he wastes time talking to them after they head back to their room, making him late for the meeting where he would have otherwise been blown up with the rest of Chaldea's leadership.
    • It becomes doubly-lifesaving when it is revealed in the SE.RA.PH Story Arc that prior to Chaldea's organized effort to deploy the Masters into an army to tackle the Singularities, Chaldea dabbled in experiments on Master candidates in their private oil rig. Experiments which, when the player finally sees it, had left the facility a killing ground for almost 200 personnel. It was one of the previous Director of Chaldea, Marisbury's greatest and horrifying secrets for a man supposedly dedicated to helping humanity. Combine this with the backstory of the protagonist, that they only became a Master candidate because they were broke and needed money, so they applied to a part-time job they found only to be the last Master of Chaldea to save the world. The fact that they were broke at that moment instead of before or after saved them from being a mere statistic for Chaldea's effort to save humanity.
  • Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers: Kai-Shirr is a poor bloke living in the shadow of Eulmore, a decadent society where you only get in if you satisfy the whims of the wealthy. 'Meol', a type of Impossibly Delicious Food, is handed out for the people of Gatetown to sustain themselves on, and is a staple of Eulmoran cuisine as well. In addition to having no skills of his own to get in with, Kai-Shirr rarely gets his hands on a serving of meol when it gets handed out. When the Warrior of Darkness and Alphinaud come across him, they give him a means to get inside, only for it to go wrongnote  and end with him escaping from Eulmore with a bloody arm. Seven levels of Main Scenario later, the Warrior of Darkness and friends return to Eulmore and discover that meol is made of sin eater, the Light Is Not Good variety of Eldritch Abomination that serves as the main antagonists of the expansion. In addition to the already-horrifying implications of the fact that many a sin eater Was Once a Man, the ruler of Eulmore has the power to control sin eaters, which they soon discover extends to people who have partaken of sin eater flesh. The only people spared Vauthry's control are the newest arrivals to Gatetown, who took longer to be affected and weren't affected as strongly, and Kai-Shirr.
    Kai-Shirr: Heh... The bitter greens and bony fish I got by on don't seem so bad no more...
  • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Rafiel, one of the herons, tells how he was captured by slave drivers and was sold to Hetzel, one of the Begnion senators. Then the Serenes Massacre occurred, which wiped out his kind (save for his father, brother, and sister) and destroyed their home.
  • Life Is Strange 2 retroactively reveals one that occurred in the first game: If the player chose the "Sacrifice Arcadia Bay" ending, Victoria Chase will be one of the few confirmed survivors of the storm that razed the town to the ground and killed much of the population. How? Because at that point in time she was kidnapped and being tortured by the Big Bad in an underground bunker.
  • In the final level of Medal of Honor: Airborne, Travers is left behind by his squadmates following a German ambush in the basement of the Flak Tower his unit was assigned to destroy. This forces Travers to fight his way out. When he finally manages to get out of the tower, he finds his friend and superior dead or dying following an ambush by a German squad, making him the Sole Survivor of his original squad since Sicily.
  • Persona 5 has Ryuji get bored and ropes Joker and Mishima into "Operation Maidwatch", where they order a maid and spy on her. Joker makes the call and just requests a random maid, only to find out by astronomical chance that she's Kawakami; his homeroom teacher. This soon opens up the Temperance Confidant, and you later learn that she's on the bad end of a blackmail scheme, and luckily for her, the one student who found out about her embarrassing secret in the first place is a very powerful vigilante leader...
  • In the Pokémon series, a Pokémon can only be inflicted with one of a certain category of status ailments at a time. This can lead to some situations where your Pokémon being inflicted with a less harmful status can be beneficial because it makes them immune to another more harmful status, especially if the Pokémon has an Ability or moveset that negates one or more of the status effects.
    • Statuses in the aforesaid category include:
      • Paralysis - cuts Speed in half and randomly prevents the afflicted Pokémon from acting
      • Burn - cuts Attack in half and eats 1/16 of the afflicted Pokémon's HP every turn
      • Poison - eats 1/8 of the afflicted Pokémon's HP every turn, no other effects
      • Bad poison - eats 1/16 of the Pokémon's HP on the first turn, 2/16 on the second turn, 3/16 on the third...
      • Sleep - Pokémon is unable to act for a random turn count (between 1-7 depending on the generation)
      • Frozen - Pokémon is unable to act, with a 20% chance to be freed each turn; will be freed if struck by a Fire-type move
    • This can lead to such boons as:
      • A paralyzed Pokémon being spared damage from poison or burn (Speed decrease can be negated by Quick Feet)
      • A burned Pokémon taking less damage than they might from poison or bad poison (Attack decrease can be negated by Guts and does not affect Special Attack)
      • A sleeping Pokémon having a maximum inactive turn count rather than the random turn count of freezing (the moves Snore and Sleep Talk can only be used while sleeping)
      • A poisoned Pokémon always being able to act (Magic Guard negates damage from status conditions)
  • Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness also has a story example. One of the sailors in Gateon Port mentions that he'd slept in at the Krabby Club and missed his ship... said ship being the S.S. Libra, which was featured in the game's opening movie when Shadow Lugia lifted it out of the ocean, flew it back to Orre, and dropped it in the middle of the desert.
  • Quake II: In the intro for the main game, Bitterman's ship gets hit by another marine pod, prompting him to fall earlier to Stroggos. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the rest of the marine force was were wiped out by the Big Gun. Now everything's up to him.
  • Rakenzarn Frontier Story: Makoto is saved from being assassinated by Solo thanks to being summoned by accident when Shaft's ritual is interrupted.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: The Plucky Comic Relief security guard Chunk is absent after the Sabbat vampires attack the Prince's tower. He shows up again, none the wiser, before your next mission and cheerfully admits that he'd been out sick with food poisoning that night.
  • Either Louis or Violet end up having one in The Walking Dead: Season Four; one of the two is captured in Episode 2, and has been maimed by Episode 4. (Louis loses his tongue, whereas Violet loses her sight.) Whoever is not mutilated risks their life trying to save Tenn, and can potentially end up Devoured by the Horde.

    Visual Novels 
  • Inverted in a case from the third Ace Attorney game: Glen Elg was supposed to pay off a huge loan to Furio Tigre by way of giving him a powerful computer virus he created; the kind of stuff that could sell for millions on the black market. However, just as Glen was about to give Tigre the virus, he happened to win five hundred grand; just enough to pay off the loan. Unluckily for him, Tigre had a much bigger debt of his own to mob boss Bruto Cadaverini, which he couldn't pay off with "just" 500k. So Tigre resorted to killing Glen and stealing the virus from him. Glen's luck at winning at the lottery led to his death, something that The Judge lampshaded as being tragically ironic.
  • This is how Makoto Naegi's Ultimate Good Luck tends to manifest in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. The guy gets stuck in the one bedroom with a bathroom door that sticks- which then clears him as a murder suspect because he's able to prove the killer didn't know how to open it properly. He winds up framed for murder, but is saved at the last minute by being dropped into a garbage dump, et cetera. Junko provides a demonstration in the anime's Despair Arc by tossing a wrench at Makoto's head- only for him to immediately slip on a piece of paper and fall on his ass, looking like a real doofus but dodging the wrench without even knowing it was there.
  • In the first Galaxy Angel game, a malfunction in the Lucky Star's engine results in Milfie being unable to deploy for a battle, forcing the engineer crew to fix it up. Later, when the Elsior is caught in a pincer and the other Angels are too far away to pull back in time, Milfie is finally ready to deploy and deal with the enemies in the rear while the rest battle in the front.

    Web Comics 
  • In Stand Still, Stay Silent, the Denmark portion of the Just Before the End prologue focuses on an executive who gets stuck in the island of Bornholm after the country suddenly closes down all national and international boat traffic to keep The Plague from spreading. His Mean Boss, who was mad at him for taking the trip because it was happening too close to an important meeting, fires him on the spot by phone. The first Encyclopedia Exposita from After the End describes the nations that still exist. The document reveals that Denmark is among them, but that it now consists only of Bornholm island. That executive from before? The Medic of the main cast is his great-grandson. To top things off, said great-grandson is implied to have had the same happen to him, by being fired from his front-line position in the Danish army shortly before said frontline was annihilated in an attempt to reclaim Kastrup.

    Web Video 
  • Jet Lag: The Game: A meta example for the New Zealand season, as explained in The Layover podcast. For unclear reasons, Sam's visa required him to leave the country by a certain date, meaning that they had to move the season up by a week. This meant that they got the one week of good weather in a summer that was otherwise very rainy and stormy.

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin: The Series: In "The Day the Bird Stood Still" the palace gets a ransom note from Abis Mal stating he has cursed the Sultan to slowly turn to stone. Wondering how in the world he did that, the note also reads that he spiked the Sultan's bath oils. The Sultan sighs in relief, saying he hasn't bathed yet. Cue Iago screaming since he was the one who used the bath oils earlier.
  • Family Guy: In "Extra Large Medium", Bruce's fight with Jeffrey (over a turkey burger) leads him to find Chris and Stewie, saving both of their lives.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: In the episode The Great Egg Heist, Professor Calmitus successfully managed to fool Jimmy and his friends into retrieving the Egg-Drop Jade which had boundless energy that could be abused. He all but surely woulda won at that point...had Carl not bungled the gem heist earlier in the episode by mixing up the true Jade egg with a fake that he was supposed to put in place of the authentic one. This "blunder" causes Calmitus's Doomsday Device to explode in spectacular fashion. Carl even gets promptly praised by Jimmy and his friends for being an Accidental Hero.
  • Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous: In episode 5, Bumpy gets in front of Yaz and trips her just as she's about to reach the van which Eddie has stolen. It's probably lucky that she didn't reach it or else the kids would have shared Eddie's fate of being Eaten Alive by the Indominus Rex.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: In "Hack-San", Marinette getting captured by Robustus puts her in the perfect position to defeat the villain when Alya, temporarily wielding the Ladybug earrings as Scarabella makes a deal for Robustus to release everyone he's captured in exchange for the heroes turning themselves over.
  • In one episode of The Penguins of Madagascar, the penguins bring up a sunken crate of brine-soaked herring. Unfortunately, despite Skipper saying there's plenty for all of them, he, Kowalski, and Private end up greedily gobbling up all of them and not let Rico get even one. Unfortunately, it turns out that the herring had been too aged, causing the three to contract a rare brain disease that made them go fish crazy, with Rico being the only one to prevent them from eating any more fish for twenty-four ours in order to cure them.
  • In The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Boy Scoutz N The Hood", Homer loses the map and gets himself, Bart, and the Flanderses lost at sea. As bad as this is, it turns out to have saved their lives since the campers who went on the "correct" path were attacked by mountain men, a bear, and finally a slasher villain lurking in a campground.
    • In the episode "Itchy and Scratchy Land", the Simpsons go the titular Disneyland copycat and cause mischief to the point that Bart and Homer get arrested by park security, which Marge considers the most embarrassing experience of her life (so far), to the point she even orders the family Let Us Never Speak of This Again at the end of the episode. But when the park animatronics go murderously berserk and the family is left behind to die, they are able to fight them off and be the heroes of the day. If they had gone to the park sanctuary as Marge wanted, the Simpsons would have been just another handful of casualties of the birds breaking free and attacking everybody.

    Real Life 
  • The 9/11 attacks had many instances of this. Some are documented, while others are apocryphal:
    • On September 11, 2001, Seth MacFarlane was scheduled to take a flight to Los Angeles from Boston. Due to a hangover and his agent giving him the wrong time for the flight, he missed the plane. He tried to find another flight, only to find that the terrorist attacks that day grounded all flights. He also learned that one of the hijacked planes, American Airlines Flight 11, was the one he was supposed to be on.
    • There were people who worked in the buildings, but weren't there, either because they were sick, at somebody else's funeral, waiting at the poll lines to vote (it was NY state's primary voting day), and one case even tells about someone who wasn't at his work on time because his shoelaces weren't tied!
    • The History Channel documentary 102 Minutes that Changed America shows an instance of this. A man who worked in one of the Towers can be seen on the phone with a friend, telling them that he overslept that morning because he was watching Monday Night Football the night before and stayed up too late. He ends the conversation with, "Monday Night Football saved my life."
    • All My Children actress Eva LaRue (Dr. Maria Santos-Grey, 1993-1997, 2002-2005) and her husband John Callahan (Edmund Grey, 1992-2005) were scheduled to be passengers on American Airlines Flight 11, the first one to strike the World Trade Center. However, she felt ill due to her pregnancy and they decided to postpone to a later flight, thus saving theirs and their unborn child's life.
    • Hall of Fame basketball coach John Thompson was scheduled to do a studio interview in Los Angeles for Jim Rome's TV show. He wanted to fly out on the 11th so that he could make a friend's birthday party in Las Vegas on the 13th, and booked a ticket on American Airlines Flight 77 from Washington to L.A. A few days before the show, Rome's producer called, telling him that Thompson's original plans wouldn't work for the show, and asked him to rebook for the 12th. Thompson resisted, but the producer insisted, adding that Thompson would still be able to make it to Vegas in time for the party. Thompson finally agreed... and back at home in Arlington, Virginia, felt the impact of Flight 77's crash into The Pentagon.
    • A double whammy of misfortunes for a United Airlines flight attendant Elise O'Kane: thanks to accidentally reversing two numbers when entering a flight code to try to book her usual schedule, she ended up being scheduled to work all the wrong flights for September, but got most of her regular trips back via trading with other staff, with one exception: United Flight 175, from Boston to Los Angeles, on September 11. Then the night before the flight, she logged in to try again to request it, only for the system to freeze; by the time it processed the request, it was one minute past the required deadline. At Logan Airport, O'Kane happened to meet Robert Fangman, a younger flight attendant who was scheduled to staff the flight in her place, and despite being "steamed" about not being on it, tried her best to be happy for him. Flight 175 went on to crash into the South Tower, killing everyone onboard, including Fangman.
    • After the South Tower's collapse at 9:59 am and a call for all firefighters to evacuate the North Tower, NYFD Captain Jay Jonas, his unit, and a couple of other first responders on their way down came across a woman Josephine Harris at around the 20th floor who had come down from the 73rd floor, exhausted and struggling to walk. At the risk of slowing down the evacuation, the firemen escorted her down. Around the 4th floor Harris collapses to her feet saying she can't go on and they should leave her but the group refuses. The North Tower then collapsed with them still inside at 10:28 am, but due to how the building debris fell around that area the group ended up in a cove all still alive; they were eventually rescued three hours later. The firemen called Harris their "guardian angel" because had she not ended up stopping on that floor, the group would have been further along and subsequently killed in the collapse.
  • The Pan Am Flight 103 bombing produced several stories like this also, including Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten, whose wife had failed to pack. This and the subsequent argument caused them to miss the flight.
    • This Not Always Working story tells of a recording studio owner who ends up missing a flight to see his family because his studio got in hot water with the fire department after an inattentive and rather stupid manager accidentally locked the employees in the building.The final line reveals the flight he missed was Pan Am 103, so the manager indirectly saved the boss's life by being such an idiot (and the story's narrator calling the fire department to get them out).
    • Another life saved was that of Kim Cattrall, who changed her flight at the last moment to purchase a tea kettle for her mother.
  • Sometimes thought of as an urban legend, but marked as true by Snopes. In 1950, the Reverend at the West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska lit a fire in the furnace and went home to eat with his family before choir practice at 7:20. Before he could go, his wife soiled her dress and they had to wait while she ironed another. Additionally, every other member of the choir had something delaying them as well. (Car trouble, a persistent math problem, oversleeping, etc.) As a result, every member of the choir — a usually punctual group — was late for practice... and therefore weren't present when the furnace ignited a gas leak and the empty church exploded five minutes after practice was supposed to begin.
  • On November 28, 1942, the Boston College football team faced off against its cross-town archrival, Holy Cross. Boston College was undefeated and headed to a New Year's Day bowl game, and the Golden Eagles were heavy favorites against lightly regarded Holy Cross. Holy Cross proceeded to shock the college football world by demolishing Boston College 55-12, ruining the Golden Eagles' perfect season. The stunning defeat led to the cancellation of a victory party scheduled for that night at Boston's Cocoanut Grove nightclub. That night, the Cocoanut Grove burned to the ground, killing 492 people... but nobody on the Boston College team or its entourage, because they weren't there.
  • "The Day the Music Died" features a double whammy. Tommy Allsup, guitarist in Buddy Holly's backing band, lost a coin toss to Ritchie Valens for the last seat on Holly's plane, which later crashed, killing Holly, Valens, and The Big Bopper on February 3, 1959. Big Bopper wasn't even intended to be on Holly's plane: When Holly chartered the plane, both Allsup and Holly's bass guitarist helped him pay for it, since they also wanted to arrive early for the next show so they could get some rest and do laundry. However, Bopper was suffering from the flu and had trouble fitting into a bus seat, so he persuaded bassist Waylon Jennings to give him his spot on the plane. While Jennings would live on until 2002, he would spend much of that time haunted by the near miss—especially since Holly had joked to Jennings before the flight, "I hope your ol' bus freezes up!"—and Jennings had jokingly replied, "Well, I hope your ol' plane crashes!"
  • During Metallica's European leg of the tour for Master of Puppets in 1986 Kirk Hammett and Cliff Burton were drawing cards to determine who got the top bunk in the tour bus, Cliff got the Ace of Spades and took the top bunk, later that night the tour bus crashed and rolled over resulting in Cliff getting crushed underneath and dying.
  • On August 26, 1990, musician brothers Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan (along with some other musicians, most notably Eric Clapton) played a concert at Alpine Valley, Wisconsin. Following the concert, Jimmie, Stevie Ray, and Jimmie's wife Connie were initially offered seats aboard a helicopter leaving the venue, but they arrived at the helicopter takeoff point to find that there was only one seat available, rather than the three they had been told to expect. Stevie Ray was eager to get back to the hotel and Jimmie didn't want to leave Connie behind or vice-versa, so the brothers agreed that Stevie Ray would take the one remaining seat, while Jimmie and Connie stayed back to wait for a later flight (which wouldn't be for several hours). The helicopter in question crashed due to pilot error less than a mile from the takeoff point, and everyone aboard, including Stevie Ray, was killed on impact.
  • On the night of May 7, 1902, a man named Louis-Auguste Cyparis got into a fight in the town of St. Pierre on the island of Martinique. He was booked for either assault or murder (accounts differ) and placed in solitary confinement in an underground cell. The next morning the island's volcano, Mount Pelee, erupted, wiping out the town of St. Pierre and killing thirty thousand people. Cyparis was one of only three documented survivors.note  The sheltered underground prison cell saved Cyparis's life. He later spent years traveling with the Barnum & Bailey Circus, telling his story from inside a replica of his cell.
  • Ivan Basso crashed on stage 5 of the 2015 edition of Tour de France. The days after the crash, he still had testicular pains, so he asked the race doctor to take a thorough look at what could be wrong. The diagnosis: Early stage testicular cancer. So early that he made a full recovery after the surgery was done.
  • Philadelphia Phillies first baseman John Kruk was holding someone on base (during 1994 spring training) when pitcher Mitch Williams threw the ball at him to keep the runner on, which bounced and hit Kruk in the groin, also breaking his protective cup. In the course of the subsequent medical examination, early stage testicular cancer was discovered, and Kruk also made a full recovery after surgery.
  • Yuri Yudin, a student at the Ural Polytechnical Institute, joined a group of nine fellow students to conduct a long-distance ski/hiking expedition. A day after leaving the last permanent settlement on the route, his chronic health problems forced him to turn back. All nine others in the group perished under mysterious circumstances in the Dyatlov Pass incident.
  • While he was just an average businessman, John D. Rockefeller booked himself on a routine train ride from Cleveland to Buffalo. However, he arrived at the station too late to catch his train. While passing over a bridge near Angola, New York, the last two cars of the train derailed. All but two of the passengers in the car he would have been in were burned alive.
  • Enrique Wilson of the New York Yankees was planning to fly home to the Dominican Republic on November 12, 2001, a week after the Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks were to finish up the 2001 World Series in order to allow time for the Yankees to celebrate their fourth championship in a row and fifth in six years. The Diamondbacks won, however, and Wilson decided to go home early since there would be no celebratory parade for the Yankees; the plane he would have been on ended up crashing in Queens, where all 260 people on board died along with five others on the ground.
  • Stalin and Hitler signed a nonaggression pact for their joint occupation of Poland. Some Jews escaped from the Nazi occupied parts of Poland to the Soviet-occupied parts only to be deported to The Gulag and other detention facilites (same as lots of Jews who had never escaped but just ended up living in the Soviet occupation zone). When Hitler double-crossed Stalin and attacked the Soviet Union, Stalin granted amnesty to his Polish prisoners and let them form their own army (this only concerned a tiny minority of the Jews in question, but even those who stayed in Gulag at least weren't there for the Holocaust).
  • In April 1865, William Seward, Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of State, had been injured in a carriage accident a week before Lincoln's assassination and was confined to bed wearing a jaw splint. On the night of the assassination, one of Booth's conspirators snuck into his house and stabbed Seward in the neck, but his jaw cast blocked the assassin's knife. His son Frederick too also had a lucky accident that night. When trying to fight off the assassin, the attacker Powell pulled out a gun but it jammed. Rather than clear the jam, Powell pistol-whipped Frederick and knocked him out. Painful, but it broke the gun in the process and kept him from following up with a kill shot.
  • Happened in 1970 to Pope Paul VI: some Attention Whore Bolivian painter stabbed him in the neck but didn't kill him - partly because the Pope was wearing a rigid collar to relieve pain from cervical spondylosis.
  • After the Paris attacks in 2015, at least a few Eagles of Death Metal fans ended up on the news because they were meant to go to the Bataclan theatre but ended up missing the concert because they were sick or had family commitments. At said concert, roughly 89 people were shot dead by gunmen working for the so-called Islamic State.
  • There have been quite a few stories from April 1912 of passengers who were scheduled to travel on the maiden voyage of the ill-fated RMS Titanic but never making it due to either cancelling for unknown reasons, such as J.P. Morgan and Hershey’s chocolate founder Milton S. Hershey or for losing their tickets prior to sailing. One man who was hired as a stoker was reported to have had his workbook stolen, thus saving his life, most likely at the cost of the thief's.
  • One girl at the 2017 Ariana Grande concert attacked by ISIS in Manchester only survived because she misread a text from her mother telling her where to meet up. The mother died.
  • On April 15, 2002, a South Korean tour group was shifted to the rear of the plane back to Busan because the tour guide left his bag at the hotel and the bus carrying the group had to go back for it, and this delay meant that the good seats were taken by the time they checked in. However, this blunder ended up saving most of their lives; that plane ended up flying into a mountain because the pilots mishandled the approach to Gimhae Airport, leaving only 37 survivors, most of them in the crappy seats the guide caused his group to be shifted into.
  • The Guidepost magazine column "His Mysterious Ways" often features stories like this. For example, a woman had her shoes stolen while at a conference. She was forced to give her speech in a pair of flats. When a crazed gunman stormed into the conference room and opened fire, a bullet struck the wall two inches above her head—where her head would have been had she been wearing the high heels that were pilfered.
  • Five men serving on Franklin's lost expedition were forced to disembark at Greenland due to being judged unfit for service. This meant that they avoided the horrible fates everyone else on the expedition suffered.
  • In 1960 Marilyn Meeker & Larry Pierce were fifth in the world in ice dance, and were looking almost certain to win their first U.S. National title and return to the World Championships, but that December Meeker broke her ankle and was unable to compete for the rest of the 1960-1961 season. Pierce teamed up with another partner, and they won the National title and a spot on the World team. Then the plane the entire World team was on crashed, killing everyone. Meeker would struggle with Survivor's Guilt for a long time afterwards.
  • Robert Bishop was unable to serve his usual role as steward on the SS Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975, due to being bedridden with bleeding ulcers. The voyage he had to miss turned out to be the ship's last, as she was lost with all hands in a storm the day after she left port.
  • Allan West was supposed to be part of the infamous 1962 Alcatraz escape. Unfortunately, he was unable to get out of his cell, resulting in the other three leaving without him. Given that it's very possible that the trio drowned in the bay, this may ultimately have been for the best. note 
  • Israel Hands, first mate of the famed Blackbeard, was shot by his boss for seemingly no reason. He survived the shooting, and was forced to stay behind on a particular voyage. Said voyage would be Blackbeard's last.
  • In December 2014 the Taliban attacked The Army Public School and College in Pakistan killing 148 children and teachers. For one class, the only surviving student was absent due to oversleeping after attending a wedding the night before and his alarm clock not working.
  • Early in the War in Asia and the Pacific, the Light Cruiser USS Marblehead, part of the ABDA Fleet, was severely damaged during the Battle of Makassar Strait, with its steering and compass destroyed. It was subsequently forced to sail alone, in enemy-occupied waters, to the nearest friendly port, in order to seek repairs. Twice, repairs had to be rushed or improvised either due to drydocks in the ports they made anchor in being inadequate to make the necessary repairs, or the Japanese were close to attacking or overrunning the islands they were taking refuge at. Ultimately, the ship's crew were forced to make a journey halfway across the globe to South Africa, where adequate repairs could be made. By the time the ship made it to New York, she turned out to be the only large ship of the ABDA Fleet to have survived, with all others having been sunk during the Battle of the Java Sea and the Battle of Sunda Strait, with the surviving crew members of the sunk ships becoming prisoners of the Japanese and forced to endure years of torture and mistreatment.
  • A fire starts in the same room as an elderly man with dementia but luckily a family member forgot her purse.
  • Francis Marion, a guerilla leader in the American Revolution, broke an ankle in an accident in 1780 and had to leave Charleston to recuperate. This meant he wasn't in the city when it fell to a British siege, sparing him from experiencing the all too often fatal horrors that Patriot prisoners of war were frequently subjected to.
  • Manny Sanguillén of the Pittsburgh Pirates volunteered to accompany his teammate Roberto Clemente on a trip to Managua, Nicaragua which had been devastated by an earthquake. Sanguillén missed the plane because he misplaced his car keys. The plane wound up crashing off the coast of Puerto Rico shortly after takeoff, killing everyone on board.
  • On July 15, 1915, George "Papa Bear" Halas, future founder, owner, and coach of the Chicago Bears who was working for the Western Electric Company at the time, ended up late for work and a boat trip to a company picnic in Indiana due to his training for Big Ten Football running over time. He arrived just in time to see the boat that would have taken him and other employees to the company picnic, the S.S. Eastland, capsized next to the dock due to being overloaded with too many passengers and lifeboats, a disaster that claimed more than 800 lives. Reportedly, local newspapers erroneously stated in their obituaries that Halas had been on the boat and had died, causing friends who came to Halas' house to pay their respects to their supposedly deceased friend to be surprised when they found Halas alive and well inside!
  • On the night of April 23, 1940, Tiny Bradshaw and his orchestra were scheduled to perform at the Rhythm Club in Natchez, Mississippi. Bradshaw had to back out, since this conflicted with another booking at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. This oversight wound up potentially saving his life, as a blaze that night killed more than 200 people and injured many others. It remains one of the worst nightclub fires in American history.
  • Sony Setiawan was due to fly on Lion Air 610 on 29 October 2018 for the weekend, but was late that day, due to a severe traffic jam on the Cikampek highway on the way to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, meaning the plane had already taken off by the time he arrived (He would book a flight with a different airline at 9:40 AM to get to his original destination). His original flight crashed into the Java Sea ten minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 people onboard.
  • A few passengers were not onboard Sriwijaya Air 182 when it crashed into the Java sea (killing all 62 people on board) for a variety of reasons. One person, alongside his friend, cancelled their plans to board the plane because they were not willing to pay for a COVID swab test (antigen tests were not sufficient as evidence to board the plane). Another person, a flight attendant, had her flight schedule changed to Makassar. A student due to board the plane- to see his sick mother in West Kalimantan- was also told by his mother to stay back in Jogjakarta to focus on his exams.
  • Normally fans attending a sporting event don't want to see their team lose big, particularly when it's a win or go home playoff game. And yet, in Baltimore on December 19th, 1976, many Colts fans seated in the upper deck of Section 1 only lived to see the end of the day because their team got demolished to the point that most fans left early, and those that didn't left as soon as the game was over. This is because six minutes after the end of the game, a pilot doing an unlicensed flyover of Memorial Stadium crashed into the upper deck. If Baltimore had won, or if the game had even been close, there would have still been hundreds of fans in those seats when the plane crashed; as it was, the seats were mostly empty by the time the plane crashed, resulting in only four injuries and no deaths.