A pre-requisite of sporting flicks, where the competitor or team (usually the underdog, see David Versus Goliath) seems to be on the way down, until a pivotal moment happens (often a case of Put Me In, Coach!), after which the team stages, yes, a miraculous comeback ending in victory.
Of course, this is a case of Truth in Television - several teams and individuals in the history of organized sports have, in fact, accomplished nearly impossible comebacks to win games no one thought they could possibly win anymore. The National Hockey League, for example, has seen at least five teams turn 50 scores against them into 65 victories - the Los Angeles Kings in 1982 against the Edmonton Oilers (the so-called "Miracle on Manchester"), the Colorado Avalanche against the Florida Panthers in 1999note , the St. Louis Blues against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2000, the Montreal Canadiens in 2008 against the New York Rangers, and the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009 against the Calgary Flames.
When the work doesn't involve sports, then this is the Misfit Mobilization Moment.
Compare Heroic Second Wind, the fighting equivalent.
It could be considered a Wham Episode if the rally involves a completely expected ending, especially in the final game.
Warning: Major spoiler alerts!
- From Eyeshield 21, Deimon Devilbats often scored out by a large margin, only to fight back and win their game from 2nd half. Subverted since the quarterback, Hiruma knows that the team will most likely get trounced, and using the game to learn about their enemies, sometimes to install his mind trap and preparing the team to pull crazy stunts that won't work twice, and with all of this, manages to scores while destabilizing his opposition. Also, there are several instances where they don't catch up in time and lose anyway.
- Their game with the Teikoku Alexanders is probably the most ridiculous example. They end up having to score enough touchdowns to beat a difference of over 40 points with nine minutes left in the last quarter, having not scored a single point for the whole game up to that point. Against a team composed of nearly all the best players recruited from high schools all across Japan that had won every single Christmas Bowl there had ever been for the last twenty years, and who had never given up a single point against their opponents in all that time. And they manage it, too. Then again, winning the Christmas Bowl for the protagonist team was the point of the whole series.
- As a parody of Cooking Duel anime, Kujibiki Unbalance has quite a few miracle rallies:
- In an Iron Chef-style cooking contest with the special ingredient being mushrooms, Akiyama Tokino eats everything her team has made; they then have five minutes to come back, with only one (poisonous) type of mushroom left. The team then succeeds in perfectly preparing the mushroom, removing the poison and winning the contest by maximizing the mushroom's taste.
- In a 7 vs. 4 war game, 4 of the opponents switch sides, allowing the protagonists to win.
- In a contest to see which team can get more page hits over the course of an hour, the opposing team keeps putting up drawings of cute anime-style girls; with 15 minutes left, the protagonists (three of whom are girls) start a live webcam with the girls wearing bikinis and go on to win.
- Ah! My Goddess TV: The NIT Auto Club is running into trouble in a desert rally race against the NIT Four Wheels Club; the Auto Club is in a claptrap three-wheeler, driven by Keiichi, while the Four Wheels Club is in a larger car driven by a professional off-road racer. The turning point comes when the three-wheeler is capable of driving along a bulkhead that serves as an excellent shortcut, while the Four Wheels Club's car bogs down in a dune. (In a way, this is literally a "miracle rally", as the Auto Club has two goddesses on its side... and only Belldandy's magic holds the three-wheeler together to the finish line.)
- Most duels in Yu-Gi-Oh! and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX will have the hero being beaten for most of the game, until he pulls an astounding move to claim victory.
- Although there are many 'false' turning points that lead one to believe that the hero has won as the baddie makes a extremely surprised face, only to find that 5 seconds later, the baddie is chuckling at their futile attempt.
- Happens on a regular basis in Major. The main character, Goro, often finds himself involved in (if not leading) a Miracle Rally due to always ending up on underdog teams (usually by his own choice - he thrives on the challenge of playing against the best).
- Happens in the "If we lose this it means The End of the World as We Know It" Baseball game in Haruhi Suzumiya. Admittedly this is because Yuki cheats and modifies the attribute data of the baseball bat the team uses ('Homing Mode'). Kyon asks her to disable it afterwards, and the team go right back to sucking again... but they still win. And then forfeit, because Haruhi's had her fun. And then Kyon sells the other team the bat.
- Subverted in Madonna, where the protagonists nearly come back from a 400 halftime deficit in the rugby tournament semifinals only to fail to score the winning try as time expires.
- In episode 14 of Gundam Build Fighters, after breaking free from the enemy Gunpla that was holding them up, Sei and Reiji active Star Build Strike's Discharge Mode and make a mad dash for the finish line. Subverted since unfortunately for them, it's Discharge Mode runs out of juice in the final straight, causing Star Build to come in second place.
- The Dragon Ball franchise runs off this. The movies take it Up to Eleven, with the plots invariably being "powerful enemy appears, powerful enemy ('s henchmen) fights weaker warriors, powerful enemy steps in and overwhelms everyone, Goku (or Gohan) gains power at the last minute to save the day."
- The Fruits Basket college football fic "Jimmy & Kyo". UCF vs Ohio State. UCF takes an early 1410 lead at the end of the first quarter before going down 2414 at halftime and 3114 after the second half kick-off. Then, they pull off two unanswered touchdowns and after a nerve-wrecking drive by Ohio State, take a 3531 lead with less than 10 seconds left and win.
- The Blind Side: Michael leads one in the Crusaders-Lions game.
- The Waterboy: The pivotal moment being Bobby Boucher's arrival at the Bourbon Bowl at halftime
- In both of the first two Major League movies, the Indians start their Miracle Rally when Pedro Cerrano hits a game-changing home run on an 0-2 count when he'd missed the first two pitches by a mile. The sequel also counts as a Perspective Flip: the Indians race out to a 30 lead in their postseason series only for Chicago to rally and force Game 7.
- Rocky: Rocky Balboa, several times across the series. Though it's harder to determine whether someone is 'losing' or not in boxing than it is in other sports since there's no real scoring system - yes, the judges do keep score, but they don't determine anything unless no one wins straight out.
- Though actually only Rocky 2 really had this trope apply. In the first movie the fight was even all the way through until a Split Decision (and Rocky actually lost the lead he had gained from the Round 1 Knockdown). Rocky 3, both fights were a Curb-Stomp Battle. For 4 and Balboa, the turning point was so early in the fight that it really wasn't much of a rally. The second movie was the only time Rocky was shown to be 100% outmatched the entire fight (and lasted more than 2 rounds) and was outright stated to be immensely behind on the Judges' Scorecard, needing a KO or TKO to win the fight.
- Every Disney movie involving a rookie sports player ever.
- In Lonesome Jim, the protagonist gets to train a girl's basketball team (previously trained by his suicidal brother.) They've been losing all their games. After he gives them an inspirational speech, they do score! It's all very stirring. Then cut to the end of the game: they haven't scored a single point since and have been defeated once more. It's very funny.
- Happens twice in DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story:
- First in the Average Joes' penultimate match; Gordon, alone on the floor against five or six college athletes, flies into a rage upon seeing his mail-order bride flirting with another man (David Hasselhoff) in the stands. He then proceeds to beat down the other team on his own, screaming like a madman.
- The final match does this again. Justin is the last Joe standing against Globo Gym— he makes a miraculous catch to bring Kate off the bench, who within two seconds catches a ball to bring Peter in and give Average Joe's a 32 player advantage.
- In The Replacements (2000), the Sentinels come back when A) Shane Falco returns as their quarterback, and B) the coach makes it clear that since none of them will still be football players tomorrow, the rules are a bit ... looser regarding their conduct on the field.
- Frequently subverted in Roy MacGregor's Screech Owls series, where the Screech Owls hockey team (despite almost always being the underdog) win and lose tournaments in a fairly realistic manner.
- There's a Miracle Rally in the Big Match in Unseen Academicals. Justified, because they finally figure out how they can use Trev's Chekhov's Skill.
- In of Season 14 of The Amazing Race, Jaime & Cara got lost twice looking for clues on the penultimate leg, almost guaranteeing their elimination. Kisha & Jen got lost themselves, and got U-Turned, but still went into the Roadblock with a huge lead on the cheerleaders. Things looked over until Jen struggled with the Foreign Queasine Roadblock, then had herself a Potty Emergency. Meanwhile, Jaime & Cara got an amazing cab driver, Cara blazed through the Roadblock, and they managed to steal the last spot in the Final 3 while Jen was in the bathroom.
- Uchenna & Joyce's karmically fueled comeback to win Season 7, which they did despite having no money to start the leg and having to beg for money to pay their cab driver at the Finish Line. They actually talked their way onto a flight after it was closed and the pilot had pulled away from the gate.
- Also on Season 7, Debbie & Bianca came close, but ultimately failed, in leg 3. They got lost early in the leg, drove two hours in the wrong direction, and then had to drive two more to get back on course. Still, when they got to the four pounds of meat Roadblock, there were still four teams sitting there (three having already quit the challenge, while the fourth was contemplating it). Debbie scarfed down her four pounds of meat, yet they were ultimately eliminated by a matter of minutes.
- It's possible to pull this off in Williams Electronics' Joust pinball machine; the end of the game started a 30-second scoring frenzy, giving each player received unlimited balls to score as many points as they could.
- Gottlieb's James Bond 007 was a time-based pinball game that could award a free game with one shot. It was only active after the player ran out of time, when the next drain would end the game.
- Subverted in "Casey at the Bat". A series of mediocre players make it to base, and it looks like Mudville will come back at the last moment. Then their team hero, Casey, strikes out, losing the game.
- A frequent complaint by players of Madden NFL Football is that computer teams that the player was beating handily will become nearly unstoppable in the final minutes (see also Rubber-Band A.I.).
- When the real 2020 March Madness was canceled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Reddit's College Basketball subreddit made their own with CPU-vs.CPU matches in NCAA 2K8. One game tied the record for comebacks in actual tournament games, 25 points, but unlike the real-life game between BYU and Iona in 2012, virtual Rutgers had their 25-point lead over virtual Providence in the second half. Providence outscored Rutgers 53-19 over the final 17:25 of the game.
- Averted with the Olympic qualifier in Double Homework after the protagonist falls way behind in his training. He still performs well by anyone elses standards, but Rachel edges him out.
- When gambling, Ban from Spirit Hunter: NG has an uncanny ability to always win the last bet, no matter how much he's lost up until that point. It's so potent that he accurately predicted a win when he needed it to help the cast advance their investigation.
- A standard part of the story formula of the Harlem Globetrotters cartoon show where the team is put in an unusual playing venue and they fall hopelessly behind in the first half. However, the team always finds a way to even the odds, and suddenly they are invincible in the second half and win.
- Hey Arnold!!, "Mudbowl": With the 4th graders trailing the 5th graders 420 at halftime of a game of (American) football, the pivotal moment is Phoebe switching in Arnold as quarterback to replace Helga.
- Subversion: Rocket Power, "Power Play": A roller hockey game is going on in which the winner will get to play with NHL stars. With the main characters' team trailing their rivals 40 with 13 minutes remaining, the pivotal moment is the team putting in Sam, their regular goalie, to replace Lars (a more aggressive goalie without The Power of Friendship). They end up fighting back to 43 in the final minute, prompting one of the stars to comment "What a comeback! One of the best I've ever seen." Unfortunately, when Otto puts in a shot from long distance at the horn, it's disallowed, making for a Downer Ending.
- Subverted in the South Park episode "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride," when Stan makes it back to the game in time to lead the South Park Cows to a touchdown so that they only lose by 70 points (and cover the spread).
- The Simpsons.
- Subverted and Mocked in the episode "The Homer They Fall": Homer is being pounded in the boxing ring by Drederick Tatum (a No Celebrities Were Harmed copy of Mike Tyson) when Marge charges the ring to tell him to fight back. The music swells as Homer defiantly declares "I've got to knock. him. out." He takes one slow-motion haymaker...and misses wildly, letting Tatum have another free shot.
- Subverted (or played for Black Comedy) in the episode "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken": the Springfield Isotopes, dead last in the baseball league, managed to pull off one of these and make it all the way to the finals and wins... because a crazy sniper went on a rampage at the All-Star Game and took out the top players of many of the rival teams.
- Both Teen Jeopardy! tournaments in the 200607 season had the two-day final with one person down 25K+ dollars, then coming back to win on day two of the final. The first teen tournament showed David Waler beating the runaway victor of day one Ben Schenkel, and the second tournament had Meryl Federman come from third place to beat the day one victor Greg Peterson.