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Near-Villain Victory

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Erich: Have you noticed how we did really well at the start of the war and the Allies nearly lost, but now things seem to be going a lot better for them?
Hans: Yeah?
Erich: Well, have you ever seen a film?
Hans: ...what's your point?
Erich: Well, I've never seen a film where the good guys start off incredibly successfully, really nearly achieve their goals, then the baddies come back strongly but the good guys still eventually win; whereas I have seen a lot of films where the baddies nearly win at the beginning and then the good guys come back strongly and eventually win.

All hope looks lost. Soon the Big Bad will achieve their goal of taking over/destroying the city/world/universe, and there's nothing the heroes can do to stop them! But then WHAM — something unexpected happens, and the tide turns in the heroes' favor, allowing them to overcome the villain and win.

This is what we call a Near-Villain Victory, where the bad guys look like they're going to win only to get defeated at the last moment.

It is a given that in battles between the forces of good and evil, the heroes will win most of the time and the villains will be defeated in the end. So, the writers will come up with scenarios that stack the odds in the villains' favor and give them minor victories, thus raising tension by getting the audience to think that maybe this time the hero won't save the day.


Often, it's the very fact the villain is so close to victory that results in their downfall. Maybe they've got the heroes on the run, maybe they've got every right to think they're going to win or already have... then they get cocky. Because they already declared victory, they come to think the hero is no longer a real threat to them. Sometimes, they might even ignore the hero to focus on putting the finishing touches to their plan or announce themselves the supreme Evil Overlord, confident they've got nothing to worry about. This gives the heroes (or their reinforcements) the opening to make a big, crippling blow when the Big Bad is least expecting it.

The Near Villain Victory is closely related to the Eucatastrophe, a term coined by J. R. R. Tolkiennote  and defined as a sudden turn of events that makes things turn out well in a situation where all hope seems to be lost. However, Tolkien considered it a defining characteristic of an eucatastrophe that it is ultimately not brought about by the hard work of mortal heroes, but by some intervention or action beyond the heroes' control—in effect, a miracle. Hence not every Near Villain Victory is an Eucatastrophe.


When this trope gets subverted and the villain still wins anyway, you have a Hope Spot.

Compare You Can't Thwart Stage One. Might overlap with Darkest Hour. Often used to set up a plot about coming Back from the Brink when it occurs in video games. If it gets bad enough, then Only the Author Can Save Them Now. In video games, the Instant-Win Condition can easily result in this trope. Contrast Meaningless Villain Victory or even The Bad Guy Wins.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Occurs in the Cell Saga, when Big Bad Cell who was thought to have died when he self-destructed comes back thanks to his regeneration From a Single Cell and is now even STRONGER than Super Saiyan 2 Gohan. Cell launches a MASSIVE Kamehameha wave with the intent of blowing both the Z-Warriors and the earth away and it's all Gohan can do but hold him off in a Beam-O-War struggle which he is slowly losing ground in (the anime, which thankfully was kept in Kai, included the Z-Warriors helping out by firing energy blasts at Cell from behind. Though he manages to deflect them through pure energy alone). Then all of a sudden, Vegeta blasts Cell from behind distracting him long enough that Gohan can push both Kamehameha waves back at Cell, killing him off for good.
    • At around the same time of Vegeta's attack, Goku (who recently died to save the planet from Cell's self-destruction) appeared in spirit form to tell Gohan that he's really still strong enough to kill Cell, because his broken arm doesn't actually do anything to weaken him. Cue both Goku (in spirit form) and Gohan doing the Kamehameha at the same time.
    • In the movies, this is kinda Broly's thing. Example: Pre Villain Decay (well, we're talking about a show where the heroes are exponentially more powerful every season and the Return is about 10 years later), Broly is in a different league from the heroes, to the point no one in the entire cast can so much as stand toe-to-toe with him and trade blows. Broly is so powerful that the Blood Knight Vegeta is too scared to fight him until most of the cast is near death. Then Vegeta is put down in about 5 seconds. Goku, with the combined remaining power of the entire cast, lands one punch and it looks like Broly blows up from his own overpowered-ness. And then the planet blows up for unrelated reasons.
      • The Return: Well, teenage Gohan can go toe-to-toe with Broly now. Broly shows a tiny amount of what could be construed as fear when Gohan goes Super Saiyan 2... at which point Broly goes Legendary Super Saiyan and proceeds to No-Sell anything Gohan throws at him. He reacts a little bit to being drowned IN LAVA. The following is possibly the most intimidating Out of the Inferno ever. Because, y'know, LAVA. Gohan and his little brother Goten only manage to defeat him with assistance from the spirit of the then-dead Goku.
      • But only because a side attack from Trunks distracted Broly. Had Trunks not regained consciousness or if Broly ignored the attack, he almost certainly would have destroyed the Earth. Like father, like son.
    • The Buu saga is arguably the darkest hour for the heroes: Buu has killed nearly everyone on Earth and absorbed Piccolo, Goten, Trunks and Gohan, the last of which Goku was planning to fuse with to defeat Buu. The only people left for Goku to fuse with are Mr. Satan the Fake Ultimate Hero, and Dende, who's needed to keep the Dragon Balls working. Only the surprise return of Vegeta (who had previously died in a failed Heroic Sacrifice) turns things around.
    • King Piccolo also comes very close to winning during the King Piccolo Saga of the original Dragon Ball. He got the Dragon Balls to give him eternal youth and killed the dragon so no one could ever use the Dragon Balls against him. He also murdered a large number of the strongest fighters in the world, beats Goku so bad that his heart stops, and seizes control of the entire world, turning it into a living hell. The only reason he ultimately lost is because he never anticipated that Goku was Not Quite Dead.
  • MÄR, at least the anime version anyway. Everyone except Ginta, Babbo and Jack are dead, the Big Bad is attacking Earth, and it looks like all is lost. Then Snow merges with Koyuki to allow Ginta to use the magic stone inside of her to defeat the Orb and resurrect everyone. Think about that, if Snow hadn't died beforehand, everyone would've been screwed. The manga averts this however, with a laughably easy final battle in which none of the heroes even get so much as a scratch.
  • Mazinger Z: Often Dr. Hell and his followers were on the brink of winning, and only through of extreme competence and sacrifice of Kouji and his allies or of utter incompetence of Hell's minions, the situation was saved. It happened several times when they very nearly took the Institute over (the most prominent of them happened in episode 57) or invaded it successfully (episode 87), or managed to steal a sample of Alloy Z... However the most notorious of them happened in the last episode when Archduke Gorgon's Robeasts destroyed Mazinger-Z and demolished the Institute. Tetsuya's Big Damn Heroes moment saved Kouji's life, but the villains finally were victorious against Mazinger. That story was greatly expanded in the Mazinger vs Great General of Darkness movie.
    • Great Mazinger: Several of them. Two of them stand out:
      • In the Gosaku Ota manga episodes, Great Marshall of Darkness sucessfully blackmailed Japanese army into destroying Great Mazinger and the Fortress of Science. The army bombarded the Fortress and stormed into the place before blowing it up completely, and the heroes were forced to flee and lie low for a while. Meanwhile, Mykene army conquered Japan.
      • In the last episodes of the anime and Gosaku Ota manga, the Mykene army struck the Fortress and in the manga, Marquis Janus traped Misato and cut her in half, and attacked Mazinger-Z and Great Mazinger separately. Kouji and Tetsuya nearly got killed, and Prof. Kabuto commited a Heroic Sacrifice to save Tetsuya. The generals of the Mykene army laughed. Five minutes later they were not laughing.
    • UFO Robo Grendizer: One of the best examples happened in the two-part finale of the first season. Grendizer had been beaten by two Robeasts and forced to hiding, Kouji's TFO had been badly damaged, Blackie had taken control of the Science Space Center and tortured Dr. Umon. When Duke returned, he managed beat both mechas, saving his friends and destroying Blackie's command ship.
  • It's an unwritten rule in Yu-Gi-Oh! and its spinoffs that the protagonist can't win with more than 500 Life Points.
    • Sometimes subverted or outright averted, most notably in 5Ds, when Badass Normal Crow wipes the floor with some security guards in about one turn. Also, Yusei defeated Kiryu with 1400 LP on his second try, so the above rule might remain unwritten.
    • 5Ds had quite a few Near Villain Victories at the start of the Dark Signer arc - mostly due to the Jibakushin. On two occasions, the protagonists only survived due to timely Plot Driven Breakdowns.
    • The "Waking The Dragons" filler arc also had Yugi win his first duel of the season with 1000 Life Points left.
    • In the last duel of the "Waking the Dragons" arc, Yugi wins with no life points. He plays a card that lets him summon a monster to act as his life points.
      • Kiryu did that too during the Crashtown arc too... And Rua during the duel with Aporia in the Arc Cradle... Heck, the anime likes to throw the established rules of the game out the window sometimes.
    • In the final Duel of the third season of GX, Yubel uses a card that forces Jaden to add one of 5 cards to Yubel's hand every time he uses 2 Spells. It eventually comes down to two cards: Grinder Golem, which would cause Jaden to lose due to Yubel's own effect, and Super Polymerization, which is a MacGuffin that can destroy multiple dimensions at once. Jaden goes for Super Polymerization, and Yubel is about to pull off her master plan with it until Jaden alters the card's targets to their souls, forcibly ending the Duel.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in Zexal, where Yuma hits 100 LP in nearly every duel.
    • VRAINS has GO Onizuka's entire Dueling style exploiting this trope. He allows his opponent to seemingly get the advantage on him so he can stage a comeback victory.
  • R.O.D the TV. Joker has Junior, with the intention of using his body to house the Gentleman (the former head of the British Library whose soul is in a set of books), and is set to brainwash the whole world into believing the British are all powerful (and somehow transforming reality into something 19-century). The heroes are there but since paper is their main weapon, there's none on hand. Trying to talk things out doesn't work. Nenene, who throughout the series was stressing over writing a novel and had only recently finished it, sacrifices the unpublished novel, which is more than enough artillery for Yomiko and the Paper Detectives to stop the baddies.
  • 20th Century Boys uses this to great effect. Friend, for one, actually succeeds in ruling the world and being hailed and loved as the world's savior. It's only when he decides to destroy it, that things start to turn in our heroes favor.
  • Monster has one at the end when, following the Ruhenheim Massacre, Johan very nearly coerces Tenma into shooting him and thus corrupting himself forever by threatening to kill a young boy only to be shot in the head by the boy's father at the last minute.
  • The goal of the bad guys in Digimon Frontier is to destroy the digital world piece by piece and feed it to Lucemon, thereby freeing him from his prison. The heroes do all right at first, but then they come up against the Royal Knights, who repeatedly take out a chunk of the world and the heroes barely escape with their lives. Eventually the Knights succeed in taking the entire planet, forcing the heroes to take refuge on the moons. They're able to rally and take out the Knights at this point, but that still means Lucemon's back, and he's able to start an invasion of the human world before he's defeated.
  • Digimon Xros Wars does it twice. First it seems DarkKnightmon has completely absorbed his brother Bagramon till Bagramon fights back and absorbs him. Then Bagramon has the digital world and earth under his power, and prepares to destroy everything and remake everything in his will with the Code Crown power, and just he is about to finish of Taiki Shoutmon appears and saves him, because the Code Crown chooses Taiki over Bagramon, and the tables start to turning in favor for the good guys there.
  • Oh good Lord, Fullmetal Alchemist. In Chapter 104, the Big Bad, Father, absorbs the souls of everyone in the country and eats the Truth, making him powerful enough to conjure a sun in the palm of his hand. Luckily for the world, Hohenheim had a circle in place to reverse it, leaving Father in a state of Superpower Meltdown due to not having enough souls to contain Truth. At which point awesomeness ensued.
  • Tokyo Majin. The heroes are up against a God Mode evil spirit (Yagyu Munetaka) who eliminates all the main & supporting cast heroes—which adds up to a fight of about TWENTY on ONE. Only the resident badasses are even able to deal damage to him. With all your typical anime Badass superpowers present. There is much buildup that they're likely to lose unless they unlock all four Godbeasts to turn Hiyuu into what amounts to the ultimate hero of awesomeness. So, as most of the cast lies there broken, dead or dying, in from left field comes the final Godbeast's vessel and bam, the Hero of Ultimate Bullshit is awakened. Screaming J-Rock in the background. Hope Spot. Hiyuu STILL LOSES. And the heroes finally answer with their own God Mode Heroic Resolve as The Chick brings everyone back to life, declaring they will keep fighting until they win.
  • In Pokémon: Zoroark: Master of Illusions, Big Bad Kodai almost succeeded in opening the Time Ripple...but it was an illusion — Zorua had luckily broken his illusion canceler when attacking him.
    • Also, in the TV special Pokémon: Mewtwo Returns, Giovanni came very close to success.
    • Though Team Rocket many times has successfully captured Pikachu, they're almost immediately thwarted. However in "A Scare to Remember", they came closer than they've ever got before when Pikachu developed amnesia and was separated from Ash. Team Rocket successfully persuaded Pikachu that he was a member of their team, and Pikachu attacked Ash Ketchum without hesitation. Though Pikachu would regain his prior memories, and give a little payback to Team Rocket, it was pretty weird to hear James ordering Pikachu to use Thunderbolt.
    • An early episode of Sun and Moon gets even closer when TR's Mimikyu and Mareanie are able to defeat Pikachu and Rowlet in a Double Battle fair and square. The only reason they don't get away with nabbing Pikachu is because Bewear steps in to take the villains to its cave at the last second.
  • In Project ARMS, Alice has possessed Katsume, Ryo appears to have no choice but to kill them both, Keith White is quickly on his way to being a living god and destroying everyone on the planet to prove it, and the ARMS weapons - the only things that have a chance of stopping him - have been deactivated. It's only after Kei is able to appeal to Azreal and get the ARMS weapons back up that things start to turn in their favor.
  • In Bleach, Aizen has fused with the Hogyoku, beaten the Court Guard Squads, killed Gin, and is going to kill Ichigo's friends and take over the universe when Ichigo arrives as a Physical God and defeats him at the cost of his powers.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ: Neo-Zeon is in control for the series: the AEUG is barely hanging on and is little more than an annoyance to the revived Zeon. Then, just as Haman Karn is about to solidify her control over the Earth Sphere, an Enemy Civil War erupts and Neo-Zeon rips itself apart, allowing the Federation's previously-outmatched forces to come in and sweep up the pieces.
  • Also happened in the original Mobile Suit Gundam: early in the One Year War, the Battle of Loum saw Zeon wiping out most of the Federation fleet and capture its commander general Revil, and the Federation was about to surrender when Revil managed to break out and make a Rousing Speech that evidenced how Zeon was actually in worse shape than the Federation, resulting in the Federation soldiering on and continuing the battle. Even then, Zeon had invaded Earth and occupied most of Europe, North America, northern Asia and chunks of Africa. That's the situation at the start of the series, and it's only halfway through it that the Federation scores a decisive victory and retakes Europe and Asia, and it's hinted that the major contribute of the heroes is to distract Zeon's armies from the war by bringing a lot of firepower too near Zeon's major industrial hubs on Earth, forcing them to redeploy and giving the Federation much needed breathing space to marshal up its much bigger army and unleash it on Zeon's occupied territory.
  • This trope appears to be a favorite of Hirohiko Araki, as every villain of Jojos Bizarre Adventure often comes only a hair's breadth away from killing all the heroes, only to be defeated by circumstances they couldn't predict:
    • Phantom Blood: Dio succeeds at killing Jonathan and stealing his body, but Jonathan stops him from ruling and terrorising England, and the Joestar bloodline barely is saved.
    • Battle Tendency: Kars finally becomes the Ultimate Life Form with Complete Immortality after obtaining the Red Stone of Aja. His triumph becomes his curse when Joseph, acting on instinct, uses the Stone to launch Kars into space with a volcanic eruption. Since Kars is incapable of dying and has next to no chance of landing somewhere, he eventually goes mad and his brain shuts down.
    • Stardust Crusaders: Nearly all the heroes are dead, DIO has acquired a massive power boost that allows him to stop time on such a scale that Jotaro simply can't keep up, and in the end, DIO is defeated by Polnareff's intervention, and eventually, Jotaro becoming able to stop time himself.
    • Diamond Is Unbreakable: Kira acquires a seemingly foolproof power that allows him to constantly kill and rekill any potential witnesses until he's satisfied that his secret identity is complete. In fact, at one point he manages to kill all the heroes, but he doesn't realize it because the power doesn't include awareness of what happens in the time loops (the only way to find out would be to go through another loop and see who just randomly explodes). Only due to sheer luck is Hayato able to create a situation where Kira must deactivate the looping in order to protect himself, which ultimately results in his defeat.
    • Vento Aureo: Diavolo has nearly wiped out all opposition, and is only moments away from acquiring the Arrow, but is only defeated by Bruno, Trish, and Giorno snatching it away from him in the last second.
    • Stone Ocean: Enrico Pucci succeeds in killing all of the primary protagonists (and in a round about way everyone on earth), and accelerating the universe through a second big bang. The only thing preventing a Downer Ending is Emporio defeating him at the last second with Weather Report, preventing the new universe from lacking a Joestar bloodline.
    • Steel Ball Run: This actually happens twice. Gyro dies, and Johnny is left to fight alone against the seemingly Nigh-Invulnerable Funny Valentine. Crippled, without his horse, and with only one bullet left, Johnny finally understands Gyro's dying words and unlocks the ultimate form of his Stand. Following this, the alternate universe Diego Brando actually beats Johnny, rendering him helpless while Diego wins the race, and is just about to ensure that the Saint's Corpse will remain in his possession, when Lucy Steel arrives with the original Diego's head, which merges with the second Diego and blows his head up. Because of Johnny's efforts, Diego had only one leg and could not escape. For an extra kicker, since Diego can't claims his prize money due to being...well, dead. He's disqualified and the it goes to a runner up. A much less jerk-ass character.
  • In Umi Monogatari, Sedna comes extremely close to winning. By the end of episode 11 she has absorbed Marin and Kanon's combined power and shattered their transformation stones, rendering them completely incapable of stopping her. She then floods them with darkness and nearly kills them before they realize what the darkness is.
  • In Naruto, in the filler Land of Tea Escort arc, Fukusuke Hikyakuya came to within inches of winning the race that would dissolve the Wasabi clan. Idate luckily crosses the finish line in the nick of time. Kyuroku Wagarashi and the evil Minister then try to cheat the outcome saying that Idate should be disqualified for riding on Naruto's back part of the way. Fortunately, the Tea Daimyo grills the Minister for accepting the Wagarashi bribes and forces him to become a monk and disbands the Wagarashi for their crimes forever.
  • In the 24th episode in the second half of the first season of Sword Art Online, Oberon cuts Kirito and Asuna's reunion short and spams his Game Master status, pinning Kirito on the ground with gravity-based magic, then impales him with his own sword and then proceeds to tear parts of Asuna's garments off, and lick her while sexually assaulting her, and then threatens that once he's done that in the virtual world, he'll do the same thing to Asuna in the real world, while she is in a coma, in her hospital bed, with Kirito unable to stop him. Just as he's about to give up in his Near-Death Experience, the digital spirit of Kayaba, the antagonist from the first half, who was disgusted with Sugou's abuse of the system, gives Kirito his system administrator privileges and a Heroic Second Wind, allowing Kirito to have control of the system, reduce Oberon to Level 1, take away his control of the system, turn off his pain absorber, and defeat Oberon and save Asuna.
  • Happens in The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird.
  • Happens quite a few times in Fairy Tail with the various Arc Villains coming within a hair's breadth of their goals.
    • Galuna Island Arc: Despite the team having defeated Lyon and his cohorts, the demon Deliora has been freed from his Iced Shell prison just as Lyon intended...only for the demon to just fall down and die right then and there due to its life being sapped by Iced Shell's properties.
    • Phantom Lord Arc: Fairy Tail's has worn itself out defeating the Element 4 to stop Abyss Break, Natsu is in no condition to keep fighting after bringing down Gajeel, and Erza, still weakened from her previous injuries and their best hope, is losing hard against Master Jose and no one is left to help her due to the others fighting a losing battle against Jose's Shade soldiers. Cue Master Makarov, healed from his previous crippling injury, coming in to save her and taking the fight to Jose himself before wiping him and his Shades out with Fairy Law.
    • Fighting Festival Arc: Almost everyone in Fairy Tail is too weak to move after taking down the Thunder Palace, Makarov is suffering from a heart attack brought about by stress so he's no help, Laxus has just wiped the floor with Natsu and Gajeel, and he's about to unleash Fairy Law to wipe out everyone in Magnolia despite Levy's pleads. Great destruction is only averted because Fairy Law fails to hurt anyone in the city because Laxus deep down could never bring himself to hurt them, and casting the spell uses up so much energy that Natsu (with Gajeel's help) is finally able to take him down.
    • Tartaros Arc: Despite defeating the Nine Demon Gates and even Mard Geer himself, the magic superweapon Face is still activated, seemingly spelling the end of everything as everyone's magic begins to leave them as they desperately try to destroy the Faces and the grievously-injured Mard can only smile at the sight of his plan to revive E.N.D. coming true before his eyes. However, the dragon parents of Wendy, Gajeel, Sting and Rogue all arrive to wipe out the Faces themselves, putting an end to the demon's schemes.

    Asian Animation 
  • The goal of Lamput's villains Fat Doc and Slim Doc is to capture Lamput, an orange shapeshifting blob that Escaped from the Lab. One episode has Fat Doc with Lamput in the lab, where he places him in a room that's mostly empty save for the presence of a cardboard box and expects him to stay there... only for Lamput to stick to Fat Doc's bottom as he walks away, thus narrowly escaping imprisonment.
  • Happens a lot in Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf. Wolffy has come close to eating the goats on numerous occasions, even making it as far as tying them up and putting them in a boiling pot, but the goats always find a way to escape at the last minute.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog: Antoine's Evil Twin from Anti-Mobius was banished to Mobius Prime by Anti-Sonic, and decided to use it to his advantage to seize power. He successfully impersonates his prime counterpart for an entire year, and came close to taking over the Kingdom of Acorn by poisoning King Max and marrying Sally. He only fails at the end because Sally's elder brother Elias decided to take the throne in place of his father, and Patch's subsequent attempt to kill Elias leads to him being exposed and Sonic booting him back to Anti-Mobius.
  • The Avengers:
    • in an issue of the First Avengers Team run, Kang The Conqueror realizes that all he needs to defeat the Avengers is to get a Robot Spider-Man to join the team. The robot's turned away because no one liked Spider-Man, so it makes up a story about knowing where missing teammate Iron Man is. On the rescue mission the robot systematically separates and takes out all the Avengers, but before he can finish them off the real Spider-Man shows up upset at the impostor and in battle figures out how to shut off the robot. Predictably, Kang learns of his failure and hangs his head in shame.
    • This plan worked so well though that when the robot got turned back on by accident it, once again, managed to subdue the current lineup of Avengers, and that wasn't even its goal this time. Luckily, Spider-Man's clone happened to be in the area.
    • This trope seems to be very common for Kang; in The Kang War storyline, he nukes Washington DC and conquers the entire world. It takes a group of off-world heroes commanding a very powerful alien device to even begin to overthrow him, and they still would have failed Kang's son hadn't betrayed him.
  • W.I.T.C.H. loves this trope, having pulled it in every major story arc at least once. The Trials of the Oracle arc takes the cake, as it does it three times: first the arc starts with Phobos taking over Kandrakar under everyone's nose, then the Guardians retrieve Elyon and gives her back the Crown of Light with her powers only to discover it was actually a transformed Cedric, and then, after Cedric has been recaptured and Phobos has thrown himself in the infinite to not be recaptured or having to face another No-Holds-Barred Beatdown at Will's hands (especially now that she doesn't have to hold back), ends with Phobos returning thanks to his ace in the hole and nearly defeating the Guardians before a chance accident frees them from his hold as he's real enough to be disintegrated.
  • Secret Wars (1984) has this. Doctor Doom takes the Beyonder's powers and becomes omnipotent. The heroes try to talk him into releasing his power and ... he destroys the lot of them. This is an issue cliffhanger. All the heroes die.
  • In The Transformers: Dark Cybertron, a badly injured Megatron states that the Simanzi Massacre, where half of Cybertron's already-depleted population died, and part of the planet was superheated to the extent that it glowed, was the nearest the Decepticons ever came to winning the war.
  • The Ultimates
    • In the first arc, the Chitauri infiltrate the psi division of SHIELD, send them to a wild goose chase and detonate a bomb to kill the Ultimates. The Wasp is overpowered, and the Chitauri are ready to launch their program to destroy the human free will. But then, it turns out that Iron Man managed to shield the Ultimates and a portion of the SHIELD agents from the explosion, and the Chitauri main fleet shows up to order them to pack and leave, because of intergalactic reasons.
    • In the second arc, the Liberators capture and defeat the Ultimates, but then fall down one by one once they counter attack. Then Loki unleashed his godlike powers, and none of the Ultimates can stand against it... except Thor, who brings the armies of Asgard with him to defeat Loki.

    Fairy Tales 
  • "The Black Bull of Norroway" is the example of eucatastrophe cited by Tolkien in "On Fairy-Stories": the heroine has, after a long and miserable quest, won her way to where the prince is. She can't get at him, though. She bribes the princess who intends to marry him, and gets to his bedchamber, to find that she can't wake him. (The princess drugged him.) She tries again. And again. And the third time, the prince had been told by some servants that someone had been begging him to wake up during the night, and doesn't drink the drug.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Jackie Chan Adventures fic Queen of All Oni:
    • Queen Jade comes up with a plan to steal the captured masks. It's based off what happened when Dark Jackie stole the Talismans, and although the mask is attached to Captain Black, the plan still works to a point, Jade uses the mask to sneak into Section 13, and if it weren't for Wisker's interference, SHE WOULD HAVE SUCCEEDED!
    • Ikazuki and the mask-empowered Hak Foo come closer to totally defeating the J-Team in combat than any other adversary, both only being defeated by unforeseen interference.
  • All three of Trigger Happy Fanboy's Pokémon fanfics have these. And considering the fact that they're all in the same universe, they live in a pretty deadly world.
    • In Dance Of Destiny: Kyurem's subordinate, Dialga, has Celebi immobilized between dimensions, Darkrai is beaten into the ground by Zapdos, Moltres, and Articuno, Tianna is unconscious, and Axel is about to be eaten by the said Big Bad. Cue Rayquaza to fly in and engage Kyurem in battle. Axel manages to revive Arceus, who opens up a can of Roaring Rampage of Revenge on Kyurem, and then traps the Legendary in the Giant Chasm for all of eternity.
    • In the Forget Shipping duology (Let The Flames Begin/And Watch Cities Burn) Ghetsis has the Griseous, Adamant, and Lustrous Orbs, Brendan has been captured by Giratina in the Distortion World and is about to be eaten, and Lucas has lost to N. Team Plasma has subtly expelled Team Galactic from Shinnoh and pronounced themselves as the saviors of the region, Dawn and May are on the run, and Cynthia is too busy fending off Ghetsis's Hydreigon to do anything to help.
    • Blood in the Water has the biggest Near-Villain Victory of them all. Effectively, Josh HAS won. Anna and Siobhan have been stalled by fighting Franz, who is attempting to kill them with his Lugia. Skyla is being deterred by a brainwashed Rico. Giovanni is attacking Mewtwo with Genesect. Josh himself has beaten all of Haleigh's Pokemon and forced Arceus to intervene, pissing it off enough to use Judgment and level the island, exactly what he wanted to happen. Arceus is pulled back into its own dimension thanks to Josh's Olympus Mons, and there is no way to win. But then Giratina pulls a Heel–Face Turn and sides with Haleigh, forcing it and Haleigh to engage Josh and his Rayquaza in an aerial battle above the ruined city.
  • In The Dimensional War, both stories see the villains very close to triumph. In the first, if not for the Stormtrooper Rebellion, the Resistance would have been crushed. In the second, the team finds themselves in captivity, save one person and a backup team, and after their freedom they still barely, barely win the final fight.
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, throughout the entire Equestrian Civil War, Nightmare Moon was allowing Celestia to string up many small victories, as a build up in order to ultimately crush all of her forces in the penultimate Battle of Canterlot with an army three times greater in number. The In-Universe historians agree that this event served as the crossroads of history, as Nightmare Moon should've easily won with such an advantage, and the results of the battle had the potential to shift the destiny of Equestria. But by some miracle, Celestia and her forces were able to pull through and gain the upper hand.
  • Turnabout Storm: Part 4/4 sees Phoenix Wright completely out of evidence and witnesses that might exonerate Rainbow Dash. With no options left to the defense, the Judge delivers his verdict. OBJECTION! Fluttershy appears on the stand after realizing that she has new testimony based on evidence that had been presented earlier that day; evidence that leads to the extension of the trial, a new pony of interest being brought in for questioning, and pushing the series' conclusion to Part 5/4.
  • A Future of Friendship, a History of Hate: At the climax of Episode 2, Ruinate — having already defeated the Princesses — succeeds in immunizing himself to the power of the Elements of Harmony, followed by neutralizing them completely by destroying Twilight's soul, leaving nothing to stop him from destroying Equestria. Fortunately, Amity intervenes, using the bond between the Mane Six to restore Twilight and unlock the full power of the Elements, allowing them to defeat Ruinate.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Dr. Wily has come extremely close to winning the world and killing Mega Man at times. The most prominent example is Episode 11, where he would have won and killed him if not for ProtoMan turning on him. Even after Wily loses in that episode, Mega Man almost dies anyway because of the wounds inflicted on him.
  • In Super Sentai vs. Power Rangers: The Liveblog, Radiguet would have won if he kept his pride in check. During Epic 34, he succeeded in breaking Rika, making her the host to the Eldritch horror. Then he revealed his plan to eventually kill her and make the Eldritch's powers his own. Later in the finale, he defeated the All-Stars, but the Scouts saved them in the nick of time.
  • Super Sentai vs. Super Sentai: At Chapter 26, Radiguet was victorious. The girls were all in his captivity, the boys suffered Fate Worse than Death and Earth is free for his further invasion. At Chapter 27...thanks to insubordination of Juzou and Jarmin, the girls were freed and set everything right.
  • In Bruce Has a Problem, this is how Director Bones regards the extremely narrow defeat of the referendum to secede Gotham from the US. He's perfectly aware among other things that if the public knew the government released Gareth Baxter on Gotham to get him out of their hair, it's likely Bruce Wayne would already have his own country.
  • It happens in Hellsister Trilogy when Darkseid speaks the Anti-Life Equation, effectively enslaving all sentient beings in the universe. He would have won there and then forever, were it not for the fact that Supergirl managed to hypnotize Highfather's daughter into neutralizing Darkseid's words with the Life Equation.
  • In The Fifth Act, Cloud and Kunsel are completely at the mercy of Hojo who has the full backing of ShinRa and the Turks to do his time travel experiments with them unable to fight back. But Cloud helps Kunsel escape with his Ribbon to better endure the experiments and bought Kunsel time to escape as a distraction.
  • In Loved and Lost, Prince Jewelius gets what he wants right in the first quarter! By playing the events of "A Canterlot Wedding" in his favor, he overthrows Princess Celestia, becomes Equestria's respected king, manipulates Twilight Sparkle into becoming his student and future queen, and banishes the princesses as well as Twilight's brother and friends from Equestria, with their reputations tarnished and their self-respect torn to shreds. However, Jewelius' need to stimulate his malicious desires leads him to lure the banished heroes back to Canterlot only one week later, setting in motion the events that lead to his downfall.
  • At the final battle of Fire Emblem Awakening story Golden Threads Tie Us, Grima is looming over Ylisstol, countless Risen are overunning the capital city, and the heroes have been unable to awaken the Lucina's Falchion in order to stop him. All of sudden an army of heroes hailing from another timeline arrive just in time to save them.

    Films — Animation 
  • Barbie films:
    • In Barbie of Swan Lake, after rendering the Magic Crystal powerless, Rothbart blasts Daniel and Odette with his magic, killing them both. He even gloats that he's won just before their love and sacrifice destroys him.
    • In Barbie: Mariposa, Henna comes within two seconds of killing Queen Marabella, becoming Queen herself and letting the Skeezites invade Flutterfield, but she wakes up just in time.
    • In Barbie: Princess Charm School, Dame Devin is only a few seconds away from having her daughter crowned ruler of Gardania, but Blair arrives just in time to reclaim it and announce herself as the true heir to the throne.
    • In Barbie and the Secret Door, Malucia successfully steals all of Zinnia's magic, and drains all of Alexa's magic just before her scepter explodes.
  • Scar from The Lion King (1994) not only succeeds in taking over Pride Rock, but actually holds onto this position for several years (despite a 0% Approval Rating) until Simba returns. And he almost won there as well. The only reason he didn't is because his Fatal Flaw, Pride, came in as he decided to let Simba in on "a little secret" before killing him leading to Simba's Unstoppable Rage.
  • Jafar comes disturbingly close to triumphing over Aladdin, but chooses to try and subject Aladdin to a Fate Worse than Death rather than actually killing him. It's a bit more justified in the sequel since Jafar's a genie and can't directly kill Aladdin, but still, he comes close several times. And if it weren't for Iago pulling a Heel–Face Turn and betraying him, Jafar very likely would've won.
  • In Turtles Forever, 2003 Shredder nearly manages to kill the Original Comic Turtles, nearly destroying every single universe, until he's done in by Exploding Throwing Stars and really bad timing by Bebop and Rocksteady, that's right, the 2003 Shredder was killed by Bebop And Rocksteady.
  • Mother Gothel has two instances in Tangled. After manipulating Rapunzel into thinking Flynn abandoned her, she had her ready to willingly remain in seclusion forever. And later when Flynn comes to the rescue, she stabs him and Rapunzel is again ready to remain her wiling prisoner if she will let her heal Flynn. But instead, Flynn sacrifices himself by cutting Rapunzel's hair short, thus losing Gothel the source of her youth, and with it, her life.
  • Lord Shen in Kung Fu Panda 2 was able to successfully take over Gongmen City, build up an arsenal of cannons, and capture the Furious Five, also seemingly killing Po in the process. He's in the middle of riding out on his fleet to conquer all of China when Po comes back to stop him and even then he needs to pull out an Eleventh Hour Super Power to do so.
  • In Zootopia, Bellwether has Nick and Judy trapped in a museum exhibit and darts Nick with the Night Howler serum to turn him savage. He hunts down Judy and with her back against the wall, he lunges forward to crush her throat while Bellwether looks on triumphantly... only to discover, whoopsie, it was all part of a Batman Gambit and Bellwether's gloating has been recorded, leading to their arrest and the collapse of their plans.
  • The climax of The Little Mermaid (1989) has Ursula come with inches of total victory several times. On Ariel's last day as a human, Ursula under the guise of Vanessa uses Ariel's stolen voice to brainwash Eric into marrying her, and the voiceless Ariel helplessly watches with tears in her eyes as the wedding ship departs. Scuttle and friends manage to interrupt the wedding just in time and break Ursula's magic shell, returning Ariel's voice to her and freeing Eric from mind control, but the sun has already set, so Ariel reverts to mermaid form and Ursula drags her back into the depths to a Fate Worse than Death, whence Triton offers to take Ariel's place in the contract, allowing Ursula full reign over the ocean. When Eric attacks Ursula with a harpoon from a rowboat, Flotsam and Jetsam capture him and she nearly blasts him with Triton's trident, except Ariel grabs her and redirects the blast to kill Flotsam and Jetsam instead, driving Ursula to invoke Make My Monster Grow. Following this, she traps Ariel in a whirlpool and charges a Wave Motion Trident blast for the coup de grace, but Eric commandeers a derelict ship and impales her with its bowsprit, causing the blast to backfire and electrocute her. Even in death, she almost takes Eric down with her.
  • In The Rescuers Down Under, McLeach comes very close to winning. In the climax, he's managed to capture Marahute and has Cody at his mercy, ready to be fed to the crocodiles, with Bianca and Jake unable to do anything. If he had just dropped Cody in with them immediately instead of toying with the boy, or if he'd managed to sever the rope holding Cody on his first shot, that would have been it, and he'd have gotten away scot-free.
  • Toy Story 3: Lotso leaves the gang to their imminent death in the incinerator by pretending to help them so he can escape, only for them to be saved by the aliens using a loader they found. Had the aliens not wandered away from the gang and found the loader that would eventually rescue them, Lotso would have won.
  • In Cars 3, Lightning willingly resigns himself from the Florida 500 halfway through to let his former trainer Cruz Ramirez fulfill her dream of becoming a race car, realizing she deserves to race more than he did, though he gives her his number first, and she eventually wins. Because she won and he didn't, he has to retire from racing for good following a bet with scheming businessman Sterling, but right when he is about to accept his fate, the winner board is updated so Lightning also won the race alongside Cruz (because he started it thanks to a loophole), thus he wins the bet and doesn't have to retire. If it weren't for their shared victory, Sterling would've won.
  • In the climax of Hercules, Hades' is nearly victorious: Hercules is De Powered, demoralized, separated from his allies, and about to be killed by the Cyclops, his forces have captured all the gods on Mount Olympus, and he's ready to begin his reign as the new ruler of the cosmos. It all falls apart when his former subordinate Meg pulls a Heel–Face Turn after falling in love with Herc. She ends up being a Spanner in the Works by freeing Pegasus, convincing Phil to come back, who then inspires Herc to defeat the Cyclops without his Super Strength, followed by Meg unintentionally breaking Hades' deal with Hercules by performing a Heroic Sacrifice to save Herc from a falling pillarnote , allowing Hercules to save the gods and help get rid of the Titans for good. Hades himself voices how close he was to victory while raging over his failure.
    Hades: WE WERE SO CLOSE! So close, but we tripped at the finish line. Why? Because our little, nut, Meg, had to go all noble!
  • In 101 Dalmatians, Cruella De Vil is so hell-bent on getting her dalmatian fur coat that she lodges her car into the van transporting the dalmatians, making her impossible to shake loose. It's only when Horace panics and tears out the steering wheel of Jasper's truck, which causes it to go out of control and crash into Cruella, that the dalmatians are able to escape.
  • In My Little Pony: The Movie (1986), Hydia nearly manages to Smooze the entirety of Ponyland, and by the end, has all but Paradise Estate covered. However, by this time, Megan and her party have returned with the Flutter Ponies, who handily defeat the Smooze and remove it from the area. Had they arrived moments too late, Hydia would have covered the entire land with Smooze.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The final battle over Area 51 in Independence Day. The alien saucer's primary Death Ray is already firing up when a Heroic Sacrifice by a human pilot destroys the entire ship by ramming its weak point.
  • Star Trek:
    • Done so very masterfully in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with the countdown to the Genesis detonation.
    • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: The conspiracy to keep the Federation and the Klingons from achieving peace came *this* close to succeeding had Kirk and co. not intervened and saved the Federation President from being assassinated at the very last second.
    • In Star Trek: First Contact, the Borg have taken over most of the Enterprise-E and are about to destroy Zefram Cochrane's warp spacecraft the Phoenix, preventing first contact with the Vulcans, before Data reveals himself as The Mole to the Borg.
    • Also done masterfully in the new Star Trek (2009), where the Ax-Crazy Romulan ship nukes one planet, wipes out two fleets, and actually arrives in orbit over San Francisco and starts drilling not even 300 feet from the Golden Gate Bridge before the Big Damn Heroes moment.
    • Star Trek Beyond: Krall was about to activate and release a bioweapon to disintegrate every living being in Yorktown before Kirk had him Thrown Out the Airlockand he almost went with him.
  • Star Wars:
    • Moments before Darth Maul's unlikely demise in The Phantom Menace, Obi-Wan Kenobi was dangling from a wall fixture inside a bottomless pit, with Maul about to make a killing stroke.
    • In Attack of the Clones, Count Dooku has the surviving Jedi on Geonosis trapped before the Republican gunships arrive.
    • In Rogue One, it's a Foregone Conclusion that the rebels will succeed in stealing the Death Star plans. They still have to work for it, and even afterwards Darth Vader comes within inches of getting them back.
    • Probably one of the best-known examples is in A New Hope. The Death Star is about to blow up Yavin IV and the Rebel Alliance with it, their X-wing squad sent to destroy it have all been eliminated except for Luke Skywalker, who at the moment is about to be shot down by Darth Vader, when the Millennium Falcon appears out of nowhere, knocking Vader's TIE fighter into space and allowing Luke to fire the shot to blow it up.
    • The Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi looked bleak for the Rebels for a while: Han and Leia were pinned down outside the shield bunker, unable to get in; the Rebel fleet was outgunned by the Imperial fleet, on top of which, the Death Star was more operational than advertised; and Luke, watching the fleet struggle, had just given in to his anger and tried to kill Palpatine, only to be stopped by Vader, who is bound to the emperor's will in that he must obey his master.
    • In a deleted scene on the 2011 Blu Ray, the Death Star II was just about to obliterate the Endor moon right before it exploded, since it had been rotated out of position to face the moon. If Lando hadn't destroyed the reactor when he did, the Endor system would be filled with barbecued Ewoks .
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Blackbeard successfully reaches the Fountain of Youth in the climax and, despite encountering and being impaled by his would-be assailant as well as the fountain being destroyed, manages to drink one of the chalices from the fountain before it dries out. The only problem was... he drank from the wrong chalice.
  • Batman & Robin: Poison Ivy might have failed to separate the Dynamic Duo and kill them with her kiss, but she still easily beats them both in a matter of seconds in her lair. She “breaks up” with Robin by shoving him into her pond and has her vines try to drown him, and Batman’s ambush quickly fails when vines grab him and start crushing him. Poison Ivy nearly escapes to join Mr. Freeze in freezing Gotham, with him completely unaware that she tried to kill his wife, but then Batgirl makes her entrance and manages to put Ivy in her place.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • The Dark Knight. Everything is at the brink of chaos and oblivion before the Joker's nihilistic dreams are proven wrong, and Harvey Dent is stopped just in time only for Batman to make a pretty hefty personal sacrifice to keep his legacy intact.
    • Its follow up, The Dark Knight Rises, takes this a step further. Bane beats Batman and heavily injures him, flies him halfway the world to let him rot in an underground prison. Then takes over Gotham and turns it into a police state, likewise revealing the secret behind Harvey's death. The city nearly tears itself apart in the ensuring chaos which is just a waiting period so Wayne's energy reactor, now turned into an atomic bomb, can slowly overload. On the day they're meant to activate it, Bruce escapes his imprisonment just in time to help Gordon and the rallied remaining police mount war against Bane's forces. And even when Batman gains the upper hand. The last minute reveal of Talia Al Ghul tips the scales once again, leading to a chase through the city to stop the reactor and Bruce seemingly sacrificing his life to save Gotham.
  • In Oz the Great and Powerful, the titular character's balloon is shot down by a Wicked Witch and goes down in flames. Then Oz reveals to his friends that he faked his death and convinces the witches (and the people of Oz) that his death made him even more powerful.
  • In Return to Oz the Nome King could have turned the protagonists to stone at any moment, but instead decides to have some fun by having them guess which ornament is the Scarecrow, giving them three guesses each and if they lose, they turn into an ornament. He is sure they won't be able to find the Scarecrow, however, when only Dorothy is left, on her last guess, completely by chance, she restores the Scarecrow, and only after does she realize people from Oz turn into green ornaments. This in turn prompts the Nome King's Villainous Breakdown where he tries to kill the main characters, and would have succeeded had Billina not laid an egg, which fell down his throat and poisoned him.
  • In The Terminator, the Terminator comes insanely close to murdering Sarah Connor in the Tech Noir club and accomplishing SkyNet's mission. He scours the club, first missing her by pure chance, then when he finally spots Sarah, the scene shifts to slow-mo with a droning metallic theme in the background. He calmly walks over and targets his gun's laser sight directly at her head, as Kyle grabs his shotgun from across the room and frantically tries to get the other people out of the way. The Terminator is less than a second from blowing her brains all over the floor when Kyle blasts him. If you pay attention, the Terminator actually fired and missed Sarah due to the impact of Kyle's shot throwing off his balance by a few inches.
  • Jumanji: After a long hunt throughout the film, Van Pelt corners Alan in the climax and finally seizes the oppurtinity to kill him. This actually would have happened if the titular cursed boardgame wasn't finished at the last second sucking everything that came out of it back inside it (including Van Pelt himself).
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In The Avengers (2012), Loki's Chitauri hordes have almost completely overwhelmed the Avengers. The Security Council, invoking this trope, decide to write New York off and launch a nuclear strike with the intent to wipe out the Chitauri, and the Avengers, and the millions of innocent civilians. The heroics of Mr. Anthony Stark negate the need for such drastic measures.
    • No other villain came as close to winning as HYDRA in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in a plan that spanned decades. Through their infiltration of SHIELD and various governments, they come within seconds of succeeding in their plan that would have resulted in the deaths of over 20 million people.
    • In Guardians of the Galaxy Ronan the Accuser has landed upon Xandar despite all attempts to stop his descent (and possibly even hastened by the efforts to slow him down). Rocket attempts a foolhardy charge out of anger, only to be casually swatted aside where he lands next to his damaged super-weapon, but he hardly has the time to fix it. Assured of his imminent victory, Ronan begins his Evil Gloating. And then Peter Quill starts dancing.
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron ends with Ultron coming within mere seconds of triggering an extinction event comparable to the one that took out the dinosaurs by lifting a gigantic chunk of Earth high into the sky and then dropping it. He actually raises it to a necessary altitude and starts it on its way back down before the Avengers manage to break it apart enough to prevent a disaster.
    • By the time Doctor Strange and Karl Mordo arrive in Hong Kong, Dormamu's zealots have already succeeded in destroying the final sanctum that protects Earth from being absorbed by the Dark Dimension. It's only by Strange deciding he needs to break the rules to save the day and taps into the Dangerous Forbidden Technique of time manipulation to reverse everything to a point he and Mordo can swing the odds in their favor.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Ego comes dangerously close to triumphing in the climactic battle. Yondu's Yaka Arrow is broken, he and Rocket are buried under heavy rocks which are about to crush them to death. Meanwhile, Drax and Mantis are drowning in quicksand. Gamora and Nebula are about to be squeezed to death by Ego's energy tentacles. Baby Groot is trapped in the cave passage which closes up around him, threatening to detonate the bomb. Peter gets impaled by Ego's energy tentacles and moans in pain. The "Expansion" advances on the planets, killing innocents by the thousands. Thanks to Yondu's last-minute Don't Think, Feel advice, however, Peter manages to tap into his 11th-Hour Superpower and fight off Ego long enough for Baby Groot to plant the bomb on Ego's brain core.
    • Avengers: Endgame: As the second closest villain to victory, Thanos comes dangerously close to acquiring the Infinity Stones, stealing the gauntlet and managing to perform another snap (after the events of Avengers: Infinity War), despite the heroes' best effort. It takes one last guile moment on Tony's part to remove the Infinity Stones from the gauntlet.
  • Occasionally in the James Bond universe, with Goldfinger, Spectre and You Only Live Twice being the most notable examples.
  • At the end of All Is Lost, the man sets fire to his raft in an attempt to hail a passing ship. He jumps in the water, and, realising he has just burned his last lifeline, gives himself up to the sea. As he starts to sink, he looks up, and sees a small boat coming to rescue him.
  • At the end of Scream 4 it seems like the killer's plan of recreating the Woodsburo murders - using the logic behind movie remakes - and replacing Sidney as the Final Girl will work. Then Jill makes a mistake when she tells Gale about their matching arm injury, which couldn't be possible unless Jill was the Ghostface that attacked her at the party. This leads to Jill dying at the hands of Sidney who she thought was dead.
  • Common occurrence throughout the Indiana Jones series:
    • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: First, Donovan thinks he’s found the grail when he enters its secret chamber. However, Elsa hands him a gaudy cup and he drinks from it, assuming he’ll become immortal, but he ages to death instead. Afterward, Elsa takes the grail within yards of the temple’s exit, but sets off a self-destruct sequence by stepping on the forbidden seal. In a Take My Hand scenario, she reaches for the grail below as she hangs onto Indy over a chasm. Her hand can nearly grasp it, which encourages her to keep trying despite the danger. Right as she’s about to grab it, her other hand slips from Indy’s hold and she falls to her death.
    • Raiders of the Lost Ark: Indiana Jones arrives on the Nazi-controlled island and finds The Ark, but the Nazis capture him and hold him and Marion prisoner while they open it up. This turns out to be a bad idea on their part, due to God hating the Nazis and the fact that the Nazis look at the Ark when it is opened. The angels that come out of the Ark soon attack everyone except Indy and Marion (who kept their eyes closed). All the Nazis on the island are killed and Indy and Marion are freed, as when they reopen their eyes they find that their bonds are cut.
  • At the end of Jurassic Park, the raptors have surrounded Grant, Sattler, Tim, and Lex and are seconds away from killing them when the T. rex suddenly shows up and kills the raptors, allowing the heroes to get away.
  • In Neighbors, Teddy almost manages to get the cops to leave his party at the end of the film. Luckily, several developments allow his plan to fail.
  • Happens twice in Rush Hour 2: Chief Inspector Lee and Carter are both captured by Ricky Tan's right-hand woman, Hu Li. Just as she's about to kill the both of them, undercover agent Isabella Molina interferes and spares their life. Later in the film, Lee is captured again and is about to be tortured and killed by Hu Li but is yet again saved by Isabella Molina who reveals her identity as a U.S.S. secret service agent and attempts to arrest Hu Li.
  • In both the past and the future in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Magneto almost succeeds at eliminating American leadership and ushering in an era of mutant tyranny backed by the reprogrammed Sentinels, and the Sentinels almost succeed in eliminating the last of the X-Men.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, the outcome is a Partial Villain Victory. Valentine managed to activate his system during, at least, five minutes.
  • Leonna Berrett, the control freak villain of Lean on Me almost gets this, but with most of the students passing the basic skills exam thanks to Clark's tactics, Clark is allowed to stay principal, much to her anger.
  • The Muppet Movie merges this with Reality Ensues. Doc Hopper is on the hunt for Kermit the Frog after the latter rejects his offer to be spokesperson for his frog's legs business, ultimately deciding to just kill him instead. In the end, Kermit stands up to Hopper and tries to reason with him, hoping to call his bluff. Unfortunately, Hopper is not bluffing; Kermit misjudged him. There are truly awful human beings in the world, who don't give a damn who they hurt to get what they want, and Hopper is one of them; he demonstrates this by quietly saying, "All right, boys... kill him." If Animal hadn't taken the growth pills, resulting in him becoming a giant and giving Hopper and his goons the scare of their lives, they might have succeeded in their goal of killing Kermit (and by extension, the Muppets, who were with him) in cold blood.

  • J. R. R. Tolkien not only loved this trope (it appears throughout his books), he also proposed the term "eucatastrophe" for it and identified it as the typical ending of his definition of fairy stories in his essay "On Fairy-Stories". He also pointed out that a lot of beloved stories that don't fit into the fairy-tale category have a similar structure—like the central dogma of Christianity, which is about God Himself being killed, and then coming Back from the Dead. Some examples of it in his own work:
    • The Silmarillion: The final overthrow of Morgoth by the Valar, in response to the plea of Eärendil and Elwing, after Morgoth has destroyed Gondolin and taken over nearly all of Middle-Earth.
    • The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, with the Goblins winning, the protagonists are saved by the arrival of the Eagles.
    • The Fellowship of the Ring: The near-capture of Frodo by the Ringwraiths at the Ford of Bruinen.
    • The Two Towers: Gandalf's arrival at Helm's Deep.
    • The Return of the King:
      • The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, saved by Aragorn's arrival at Minas Tirith.
      • The Battle at the Black Gate - in which most of the main characters expected to die in an attempt to give Frodo a chance - is not the primary eucatastrophe. The real one is Frodo failing at the end of his quest and, in a wonderful twist of fate, Gollum destroying the Ring by accident, which turns everything around, defeating Sauron, which in turn confuses his armies, allowing Aragorn & co to win.
  • In The Hound of the D'Urbervilles, Moran and Moriarty are actually on the back foot in the final story, as Moriarty is neglecting running his Firm to defeat his enemy, Mabuse. He does so, by manipulating Sherlock Holmes to find Mabuse. The plan then is for M&M to kill Holmes, return to London and get back to business, with none who can really oppose Moriarty. But Moran, who has been consistently treated poorly by Moriarty, feels that Moriarty would be fine seeing him go to jail to get on with his evil maths. Put up to it by Irene Adler, more or less, Moran shoots Moriarty, and the rest of Holmes canon (Holmes' near death, Moran's arrest) play out as usual.
  • Harry Potter has tendencies in that direction.
    • Most obviously in Deathly Hallows: everyone believes Harry is dead. Neville has just tried to defy Voldemort, and is getting tortured with a burning Sorting Hat. No one else dares to stand up to Voldemort, who is blockading the school with his Death Eaters. A lot of good guys are dead or wounded. Then the centaurs attack, Neville breaks free and slices Nagini in half, and Harry reveals himself to be Not Quite Dead and zaps Voldemort.
  • In Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal, the titular Villain Protagonist actually manages to get off a shot at Charles De Gaulle and miss before he is finally killed.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire sees a strange variation in A Clash Of Kings, with Stannis's forces being at the gates of King's Landing and looking for all the world like they'll take the city and end a lot of the political conflict of the story before Lord Tywin unexpectedly returns, smashing his host in a surprise attack with the Tyrells. The strange thing is that Stannis is the closest thing to a 'good guy' in the situation, although it's definitely not a total inversion due to the series's notorious Grey-and-Grey Morality and Black-and-Grey Morality.
    • The Lannisters themselves also get this. While it all seems that they have won the war, with most of their opponents now removed, and their rise to power unopposed. They soon start tearing each other apart as they hate each other more than their foes. The result leaves Joffrey and Tywin dead, and Tyrion on the run, without the two of them to keep their reign together, Cersei starts running things to the ground when she becomes queen regent. Everything the Lannisters have fought for through, scheming, backstabbing and manipulation slowly crumbles as the whole realm is now against them, and the ones who are competent enough to hold it together are now gone. Also the war has depleted their funds and the Iron Throne is still heavily in debt, meaning the Iron Bank decides to support Stannis.
    • Mance Rayder the King-Beyond-The-Wall has an army that vastly outnumbers the Night's Watch. Although he has been held off for days, he is wearing the Watch down and threatens in three days to have a horn blown that will apparently destroy the Wall. Fortunately, Stannis has been convinced to respond to the Night's Watch letters and despite his small force scatters the Wildlings and captures Mance.
  • In Warrior Cats, Scourge kills Firestar, and is about to defeat LionClan when Firestar, who is Only Mostly Dead, is revived by StarClan, to kill Scourge. This is because Firestar was given nine lives. However, there was still an off-chance that he would have died, given that Scourge killed the previous Big Bad, who also had nine lives, with one stroke.
  • The Yeerks are always on the edge of victory throughout the Animorphs series.
  • In the Mistborn trilogy, Ruin very nearly manages to destroy the world before Vin becomes a god, and then kills him via Taking You with Me. Even so, the world would probably still have effectively died if Sazed hadn't taken the powers of both Ruin and Preservation, and fixed everything.
  • The The Inheritance Cycle begins with King Galbotorix having all but extincted Dragons and their Riders, ruling his Kingdom absolutely, with only a few pockets of resistance on its outskirts. Eragon, a rider trains to beat him, barely manages to prevent being captured for 4 books, only because Galbotorix does not want to kill him, much less won't just fly out to fight him with his Eldritch Abomonation of s Dragon. When the final confrontation begins, he calmly reveals he knows every "secret" they do, proceeds to defeat every countermeasure they had against him so effortlessly. Besides having years of experience, power, swordsmanship, wards against damage over Eragon (which in this universe, almost locks victory in) , he also reveals he has knowledge of The Word, allowing him to control the concept of magic itself.
  • The Wheel of Time has this on a schedule. At the end of every Age, the Dragon fights the Dark One; if he wins, this trope; if he loses, even bigger catastrophe. However, it's possible that the Father of Lies was, well, lying about having won the battle in prior ages. Or it could be future ages and he just doesn't know the difference - the books make it pretty explicit that he's just outside of the Pattern and would be pretty alien to all sorts of its characteristics.
    • Innumerable ones in the books themselves. When the party splits up, there can be as many as several for each segment of the main characters per book. That can come out to a dozen or so of this trope.
    • Both the Aes Sedai and the Dark One try to convince the Dragon that the other side is this trope. Xanatos Speed Chess doesn't begin to describe it. The Dark One even explicitly says that the story is this trope, and it's been thousands of schemes for thousands of years in the making.
  • David Gemmell's novel Legend is about an undertrained and massively outnumbered group of defenders holding the line against an invading horde, knowing that they have no chance of actually defeating the invaders but hoping to take long enough to die that reinforcements will arrive. The horde is literally moments away from killing the last of the defenders when salvation arrives.
  • Short story "Clockpunk and the Vitalizer" comes pretty close to one. The Vitalizer comes damn close to retrieving Dolores after her escape, thanks to both the flurry of city fixtures he flings at her during their downtown chase and just how run-down she is. If it weren’t for the other superheroes catching up, there’s a good chance he would've killed her.
  • The Neverending Story: Bastian gets attacked by the Schlamoofs at the end, who destroy the picture he needs to get home and try to kidnap him. At that very moment Atreyu and Falkor show up and rescue him.
  • Garth Nix's Old Kingdom has Orannis The Destroyer very nearly complete his plan to escape from imprisonment and obliterate everything. After two books spent failing to stop him from reuniting the two halves of his Soul Jar, he is already two stages into his incarnation when the heroes, each standing in for one of the seven Great Powers that originally created the world in opposition to Orannis, perform the spell to re-bind him...which fails. Only the intervention of the eighth power, who originally remained neutral and was bound by the winning side in the form of Mogget to serve their mortal heirs for millennia, rescued the ritual. Which was NOT a given, since Mogget's track record when freed from his binding in the past had consistently been to try to kill any heirs to the Charter bloodlines in his vicinity.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The writers and producers of 24 have perfected this to such a degree that they should copyright this trope. The villains generally cause enough damage before they are defeated up to the point where the heroes simply won't get to celebrate.
  • Illyria of Angel suffered this on her return. Despite the best efforts of the heroes to stop her, she successfully reached the dimension hiding her invincible army... only to find that the army had been destroyed in the ages since she was sealed away.
  • In the Back Story to Babylon 5, the Minbari succeeded in obliterating most of EarthForce and had arrived at Earth with the intent to completely eradicate all humanity. Their sudden decision to surrender to the humans that they very clearly had on the ropes was one of the biggest plot points throughout the series.
  • The best Buffy the Vampire Slayer example comes at the end of season four, wherein Adam is only defeated by Buffy coming up with a spell to tap mystical ancient powers that give her the power, knowledge, and skills of Giles, Xander and Willow.
    • The spell required that they be close by (no just popping a spell pill and rushing off to the enemy's lair) so they all had to infiltrate a fortified underground base safely, then successfully reach a room where they hopefully wouldn't be bothered by the rampaging monster hordes and then, even when the spell is activated, there's a) the possibility it won't work at all, b) the possibility it won't work as intended, c) the possibility of it not being reversible (effectively killing Giles, Xander and Willow while making Buffy almost a demigod, and the longer the spell is active, the higher than probability gets) and d) the (proven) possibility of bad side-effects. So, it was kind of a hail mary, not something anyone really wanted to do unless they had to.
    • Seriously awesome when Buffy uses Willow's power and Giles' knowledge to turn missiles into doves.
      • Another example comes during the final battle in season 7: Buffy and Robin Wood are both stabbed, The Slayers are being overwhelmed and killed by Turok Han, Spike and Willow are incapacitated, and Anya is killed.
    • The near-ending of "The Wish" almost makes Anya the most dangerous villain the Scoobies ever faced - not only does the wish cause the Master to take over Sunnydale and succeed in his newest plan, but by the end Buffy, Angel, Willow, Xander and Cordelia are all dead, and only Giles breaking her amulet undoes it.
  • Doctor Who has a few examples, especially in the revival:
    • "Doomsday": The Daleks activate the Genesis Ark and spew out millions of Daleks, which immediately begin exterminating the population of Earth. Luckily for Earth the Doctor was still on the case...
    • "Last of the Time Lords": The Master actually succeeds in ruling Earth for 12 months, and is about to launch an attack on another planet when he's defeated. The heroes deliberately keep their comeback until the last moment, counting on the Master's sense of drama to give everyone on Earth a countdown before he strikes.
    • "Journey's End" has Davros literally seconds away from finally removing all non-Dalek life from existence. The scene itself and the leadup is pretty dark.
    • "Flesh and Stone": At the beginning of the climax, Octavian and all of the other clerics who entered the maze are dead, with several having been erased from existence; Amy still can't open her eyes; River, Amy and the Doctor are in the flight deck surrounded by dozens (at least) of Weeping Angels; and to cap it all off, if something isn't fed to the crack in time, everyone's going to be retgoned anyways.
    • "The Big Bang": Existence is literally wiped out for a brief time, and is saved only by Amy's consciousness. The perpetrators were not punished in any way for quite some time.
    • "Resolution": The Dalek recon scout's Improvised Armour is destroyed seconds before it could send out a signal summoning the Dalek fleet to Earth. The mutant then nearly succeeds in pulling a Taking You with Me on Aaron, if not for Ryan's intervention.
  • Nearly every season of Kamen Rider has the villains nearly win at least twice: once right before the hero gets his final upgrade, and then once again in the final episode. Near-victories over the hero often involve the villain destroying their Transformation Trinket or even outright killing them, leading the hero to get new powers in the process of coming back to life.
  • By the series finale of Lost, Smokey/Locke had successfully killed three of the six remaining candidates, managed to get the last ones to help him uncork the heart of the island, was about to escape on the Elizabeth boat with the island collapsing in his wake, and fatally stabbed Jack. He was going to deliver the killing blow and get off the rock when along came Kate...
  • This is common for Power Rangers as nearly every season has the Big Bad nearly winning despite the victories and upgrades that the rangers have gotten during the season. Though special mentions include...
    • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers - In the season 2 Episode "When is a Ranger not a Ranger?" During a stakeout, Bulk and Skull, who have been trying discover the Power Rangers' Identities, find out who the Rangers really are. Lord Zedd's newest monster Scatterbrain has wiped Tommy, Kimberly & Billy's memories clean – rendering them amnesiac and helpless. Rocky, Adam and Aisha, who are new to the team have to keep them safe. Adam comes up with a plan to use prisms to undo Scatterbrain's memory wipe. Unfortunately, they too fall victim to Scatterbrain's Memory wipe and the prisms land near Bulk and Skull. Scatterbrain prepares to take them to Zedd. However, rather than run away, Bulk and Skull pick the prisms and stand up to Scatterbrain. They trick him to restore the Rangers’ memories, but at the cost of their knowledge of their identities.
      • Rito Revolto destroys the Thunderzords and by extension the Rangers' powers. They would be able to wreak their havoc on the world had the Rangers not gone to Ninjor and gotten new ones.
      • Followed by the villains annihilating the Command Center and stealing the Zeo Crystal at the conclusion of the Alien Rangers mini-arc. However, by the start of Power Rangers Zeo, the Rangers are able to turn the tide by retrieving the Crystal (which Goldar & Rito had dropped while teleporting) and gaining new powers.
    • Power Rangers in Space - The various villains from the previous Ranger series team up with Dark Specter and mount simultaneous attacks across the galaxy. They succeed in subduing all the Rangers and their various allies. The only thing that prevented them from winning was a Heroic Sacrifice by Zordon.
    • Power Rangers Lost Galaxy - After Trakeena's fusion with Deviot increases her evil, she launches a massive Sting Winger attack on Terra Venture with all of them strapped with bombs. She succeeds in destroying two Megazords and nearly wipes out the civilians evacuating the colony. The Rangers use the Astro Megaship to damage the Scorpion Stinger and it crashes on a nearby moon. However, Trakeena isn't done yet; with the massive power boost from the cocoon, she is able to energize the ruins of Terra Venture and sends it on a collision course for the civilian colony on Miranoi. The Rangers try to defeat her, but to no avail. Leo uses his armor and fires a point blank shot at Trakeena, finally taking her down, but the colony is still in danger. Thankfully, the Galactabeasts are able to shift Terra Venture's trajectory away from the colony.
    • Power Rangers Time Force - After Frax is destroyed, Ransik begins his final fight with the Rangers, minus Eric. The Rangers fight a valiant battle yet Ransik is still able to defeat them. Unmorphed Jen leads Ransik away from the others. As he gives chase into a warehouse he fires and accidentaly hits Nadira. Shocked he almost killed his daughter, he turns himself in.
    • Power Rangers Wild Force - Viktor Adler manages to truly become Master Org and preforms a ceremony to make an Org Heart which makes him nigh unstoppable. He defeats and kills Animus, followed by destroying the Ranger's Wild Zords, which in turn destroys their animal crystals and strips them of their powers, then causes the Animarium to fall out of the sky before beginning his conquest of the world. It's only due to the Rangers unwilling to give up that it revives the destroyed Wild Zords (and then some) and enable them to turn things around.
    • Power Rangers Operation Overdrive - Not actually a season finale. However, when Thrax, Rita Repulsa's and Lord Zedd's son, rallies the rest of this season's villains and they destroy the Rangers' link to the morphing grid, they go on to wreak their rampage on the world and would have done great harm, maybe even succeeded in their goals if Sentinel Knight hadn't brought five other Rangers from their timelines to fight them off.
    • Power Rangers RPM - Not a season finale either, at first. The Rangers are fighting against the computer virus Venjix to prevent him from taking over Corinth, and eventually move onto a grander stage. However, when we begin the season he has already succeeded in destroying the rest of the world and Corinth is the only place he hasn't taken over/destroyed. At the finale, he has already converted the majority of the city's populace into cyborgs and has killed two of the Rangers. Luckily, the Rangers he killed are brought back and succeed in destroying him. Although even after the Rangers defeat him and his robots at the end of the season, it still doesn't change the fact that the rest of the world is a wasteland. Plus, Venjix might not be gone.
  • Used magnificently in The Scarlet Pimpernel 1982 when Percy comes back from the "dead", having supposedly been executed by firing squad. The look on Chauvelin's face when he turns around and sees him standing there is absolutely priceless.
    Percy: My good fellow, I would never dream of depriving you of your moment of triumph. Alas, a moment was all I could spare.
  • A frequent occurrence on Stargate SG-1. The best example is probably the season 8 episode "Threads". Anubis is mere moments from destroying all life in the galaxy and no one can stop him...until Oma Desala saves the day via Sealed Evil in a Duel.
  • Likewise, Star Trek is pretty adept at bringing our heroes to edge of disaster before they win the day.
    • The Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation mop the floor with Starfleet, kidnap The Captain, and make it all the way to Earth (as in, they park in orbit right above the Atlantic Ocean), before the Enterprise stops them at the last minute.
    • So to, the Xindi superweapon in Star Trek: Enterprise is blown up moments before it was ready to deploy within miles of the Earth's surface.
    • Unlike the top two examples, the Dominion actually managed to fire shots on the Earth's surface, and succeeded in messing up the Golden Gate Bridge. Additionally, several shapeshifters made it to Earth and other Federation worlds, causing massive panic. For a moment, it really did seem that the Federation would meet its first defeat ever.
      • Not to mention the Dominion successfully conquering Deep Space 9, only to have the good guys retake it with divine intervention by the Prophets/wormhole aliens next season.
    • Star Trek: Voyager had the 'Year of Hell', which was only undone with a last-minute suicide run.
  • By the fifth season finale of Supernatural, Lucifer has hijacked Sam's body, and he and Michael are about to tear the world apart in the deathmatch of the century. Then Dean shows up in the Impala and his presence is enough for Sam to wrestle back control of his body and seal himself, Lucifer and Michael in an inescapable pit.
  • Series/Survivor has had this happen a few times, where a charismatic villain nearly gets to the finals with people more disliked then them. The most extreme example of this is Johnny Fairplay, who gets to the final 3 where his only real opponent is the first to fall out of the last immunity challenge, ensuring that he or his final 2 partner will win the challenge. Suddenly his final 2 partner decides not to take him to the final two and reveals that she is good enough at squats to win her first challenge of the game, leading to his third place finish.
  • The Mandalorian: Moff Gideon's Dark Troopers have our heroes trapped on the bridge of his ship and are inexorably punching to create a gap in the blast doors. Gideon lampshades the hopelessness of the situation, saying soon all will be dead except he and The Child. Then a lone X-wing appears and a mysterious cloaked figure is seen on the ship's monitors masterfully cutting down the near-invincible Dark Troopers. Eucatastrophe has arrived in the form of Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker, like an ancient hero out of legend. The others, all hardened warriors in their own right, can only stare in wonder.

  • In the Emerald Sword saga, near the end Big Bad Akron has destroyed and conquered almost all the cities of Algalord, is holding the Emerald Sword and is torturing The Hero and going to have him fed to water snakes. Dargor's Heel–Face Turn is the only thing that bring forth a happy ending.
  • The Ancient Bards song "Hope Dies Last" is about one of these.

    Pro Wrestling 

  • In "Neverland" from Big Finish Doctor Who the Neverpeople come very close to piloting a Time Station containing an anti-time bomb onto Gallifrey, which will destroy the Web of Time. The Doctor only just stops them by materialising the TARDIS around the time station.
    • In the finale of series 2 of the New Eighth Doctor Adventures Morbius returns and takes away the Time Lord's power. He then rules an Empire for over ten years, conquering over ten thousand worlds including Earth. Thankfully the Time Lords are able to pull a Reset Button.
    • In the Grand Finale of the NEDA the Dalek Time Controller comes very close to activating a time engine that will send Earth through time and turn it into a plague planet which the Daleks will pilot through the Universe and use to infect worlds, having captured the Doctor, Susan and Alex, with Lucie in a Dalek Saucer which has been caught in a magna-clamp. Though he is stopped it take two heroic sacrifices, making this one of Doctor Who's biggest Downer Endings.


    Tabletop Games 


    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright can never go into a trial and win, he has to be getting his ass kicked until he comes to a point where everything seems hopeless. That's when he can turn things around. Possibly was the same for Mia Fey. In general, near the end of every case there's a moment where e.g. the prosecutor points out that you have no decisive evidence to prove the murderer's guilt, and as the murderer stands there gloating and mocking you, Phoenix manages to get a bright idea at the last minute, or someone bursts into the courtroom with a piece of vital evidence just before the judge announces his verdict, etc.
    • In the course of the series, Phoenix (deep breath): was defended by his mentor in one of his first cases, defends his own best friend in his first trial, defends the sister of his mentor, apparently accused by the victim of the murder (who was said mentor), successfully brings about the downfall of a man blackmailing half the legal system, defends a man whose own costume was worn at the scene of the murder, defends a hated prosecutor accused of killing a man a few days before, then successfully defends the same man for a crime committed fifteen years ago by a different prosecutor who had never lost a case before, by correctly accusing the same perfect prosecutor, takes down a viciously corrupt chief of police while defending someone who had already confessed to the crime repeatedly and in detail, defended someone without his memory, defended his assistant from a crime that, circumstances show, could only have been committed by said assistant, prosecuted a killing whose perpetrator was actually remorseful for and in which the defendant was framed by accident, successfully maneuvered a Manipulative Bastard into confessing to a crime while his assistant was held hostage to ensure said bastard's acquittal, defended someone in two trials in two consecutive days, defended someone already found guilty due to an impostor defense attorney, and finally, successfully defended a woman he thought had tried to kill him because he was convinced of her innocence (oh, and the evidence is all against her, too). Lampshaded by the fact every case except one (and the series title in Japan), all have the word "Turnabout" in them, and how in the English versions he's named Phoenix for his tendency to "come back from the dead".
  • In the climax of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, Rafe finally reaches Henry Avery's teasure and gains the upper hand over Nate during their battle. He actually would have had the chance to kill him if he wasn't distracted monologuing.
  • In The World Ends with You Kitanji has Neku at his mercy. His brilliant Evil Plan that he had spent the entire game setting up has come to fruition, leaving Neku alone and defenseless. The reapers summon a whole army of Noise and are about to erase Neku when the Spanner in the Works sets in.
  • Soul Nomad & the World Eaters had a few when you were fighting the World Eaters, Raksha especially seemed unstoppable
  • In Dragon Quest IX, after you defeat the Big Bad Corvus in battle, he says he will destroy the world anyways. Then his one true love, a mortal named Serena explains she didn't betray him, at which point he stops, invoking this trope.
  • Final Fantasy:
  • Star Ocean: The Second Story also deserves this mention: At the end of Disc 1 you face the Big Bad for the fate of the world of Expel. You get trounced, Expel is destroyed (although returned to existence later) and you wake up on the Big Bad's home planet.
  • The 2 Custom Robo games use this at their seemingly invincible final bosses. The DS's version's example is a lot like the FF 4 one.
  • Super Metroid has another example when you nearly die fighting the Final Boss.
    • As does Metroid Fusion.
    • By making planetfall on Phaaze in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Samus winds up giving her enemy all the cards as she becomes so heavily Phazon-corrupt that she can't even leave the planet (her ship no longer acknowledges her as "Samus Aran", the Phazon having mutated her so severely). As Samus has killed off her other Phazon-enabled bounty hunter associates over the course of the game, she's the only one left with the physical constitution to even be on the planet and being there will eventually terminally corrupt her anyway. All she can do is press on to the final battle and hope that she holds off terminal corruption long enough to finish things. Gameplay-wise, this is conveyed by Samus's health becoming a slowly ticking timer that can only be rewound by unloading Phazon along the way to the final fight. The more Energy Tanks you have, the longer you can go without exhausting the buildup of Phazon but it is merely slowing down an inevitability.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night might do this during the prologue battle with Dracula. If your health reaches 0, Maria runs in and casts a crap load of buff spells turning the fight into a Foregone Victory.
  • There isn't a final boss from a Paper Mario game that doesn't do this. Super Mario RPG and Mario & Luigi are immune. So far.
    • Paper Mario even starts with a near-villain victory - Bowser takes over Peach's Castle, seemingly finally defeats Mario for good, with no chance that he could bounce back. It's only due to circumstances outside Bowser's control and knowledge that he is defeatable in the first place.
    • This also happens in main-series games. Notable is Super Mario Galaxy, where Bowser is minutes away from completing his plan when Mario arrives.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In A Link to the Past, Agahnim has captured six of the Seven Maidens and Ganon has conquered the Sacred Realm, also having killed the previous Link and got the full Triforce in the beginning of the game. Later Agahnim captures Zelda too and sends Link to the Dark World. If not for the Moon Pearl, Link would not stand a chance. Even with it, he earns his ultimate victory.
    • Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time scores a fairly impressive victory during the first arc of the game — he tricks the heroes into doing most of the work for him. He then kills the King, conquers Hyrule and reigns supreme for seven years, while the rightful heir to the throne has to change her gender cross dress in order to effectively hide from him, and The Hero is put in an enchanted sleep that will allow him to grow up sufficiently in order to put the kingdom back to rights. And even when Link does manage to clean most of his influence, Ganondorf captures Zelda the moment she unmasks herself, lures Link to his castle and barely loses in the final fight, even disarming Link at one point.
    • Wind Waker: At the climax, Ganondorf gets all but one foot away from achieving his goal of acquiring the Triforce once and for all, something he'd spent five games trying to do. Pity for him that the King of Hyrule beat him at the last second.
    • In Twilight Princess, Zant and the Twilight took over all of Hyrule except for the backwater province that also happened to be Link's home, and then got beaten back into its hidey hole. He manages to beat Link and hurt Midna badly enough Zelda had to sacrifice herself, only to be later defeated and left slumped in his throne while Link goes to rescue Zelda. Ganondorf turns out to be behind Zant and able to revive him. He possesses Zelda but is forced out of her. In the ensuing fight, he actually kills Midna before Link beats him and sets everything right.
    • Hyrule Warriors sees Ganondorf triumph over the heroes, personally defeat Link and Zelda, and claim all three pieces of the Triforce. It's actually a bit of a jaw-dropper, since the heroes only just manage to claw back enough power to win. And you play as him as he crushes Hyrule.
    • In Minish Cap, Vaati, after disguising himself as the King of Hyrule, getting the soldiers away from the castle by telling them to look for the Light Force, and turning everyone except Link and Ezlo to stone, comes dangerously close to killing Zelda when Link barges in, interrupting him — after having to go through three battles directly beforehand, a bell chiming after the first two. Upon the third bell, Vaati would have completely drained Zelda of the Light Force, and the penultimate battle in the game is against the notoriously sturdy Darknuts. The third bell is even timed, so if you/Link fail(s) to destroy them in time, Zelda is dead and Vaati actually does win, though this is not recognized as actual canon.
  • Kingdom Hearts III has Master Xehanort successfully forge the χ-blade and put his plan into unlocking Kingdom Hearts into motion. The only reason he doesn't get far is because Sora's friends transport him to Scala ad Caelum using his power over time and space against him, allowing Sora, Donald, and Goofy to confront Xehanort and put an end to his ambitions once for all with the help of a time-traveling future Sora and his friends destroying Xehanort's combined Soul Jars at the same time.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • At one point in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, every single playable character (and Master Hand) is dead (well, trophyified). Then Dedede's timed badges go off and Luigi, Ness and Kirby revive. Thanks to them (and Sonic, who comes in to prevent the Big Bad from killing everyone again), the whole roster is again able to kick ass.
    • The Super Smash Bros. Ultimate story mode "World of Light" starts off like this when a malevolent light being effortlessly defeats and captures the entire 70+ roster save for Kirby who just barely manages to escape by pushing his warp star to FTL speeds.
  • Fate/Stay Night has this in all the routes.
    • Fate. By the end of it, only Shirou and Saber are in any position to take on Kirei and Gilgamesh, with all other Servants dead, Illya captured to be used as the vessel for the Grail, and Rin is still recovering from her injuries dealt by Kirei. Even with Avalon, Saber is going up against Gilgamesh handicapped and with slim odds (especially she remembers from the last War she didn't stand a chance even with a proper Master), and Shirou's fighting against a priest who can use the power of the Grail's curses. Both of them are very nearly overpowered and killed by their foes before Avalon's true power activates and gives them the breathing room to finish off their shocked opponents.
    • Unlimited Blade Works. Gilgamesh has turned Shinji into the vessel for the Grail and only Saber, Rin, and Shirou can hope to stop him with all their other allies dead (or so they think), and Saber and Rin need to go off to stop the Grail on their own and leave Shirou to deal with Gilgamesh. Even when Shirou manages to take down Gilgamesh, he still tries to pull a Taking You with Me and with Rin indisposed and Saber the same (or gone depending on the ending), Shirou would have died if not for Archer being Not Quite Dead.
    • Heavens Feel. First Saber is gone. Very gone. Then in quick succession, Archer dies, Berserker follows and Shirou loses an arm. Plus, Saber is Not Quite Dead... but that's not a good thing. Then Sakura is revealed to be the Shadow, plus Zouken Matou controls her. And Berserker is back, plus blind and insane... insaner. So many things go wrong that by the time you get to the end you're down to Tohsaka, Shirou, and Rider. Tohsaka has a weapon she isn't sure will work, Shirou has severe brain damage plus a limited amount of times he can project before he'll die, and Rider is a loose cannon at best. Luckily, Sakura makes things a bit easier by killing True Assassin and Zouken for them. Even when they manage to stop Sakura and the corrupted Saber, Shirou's the only one left who can actually stop the Grail, and he's half-dead and dying while getting his ass beat by Kirei. Only the fact Kirei dies from his own previous injuries first gives him the chance to destroy the Grail (fatally or not depends on the ending).
  • Mortal Kombat
    • Mortal Kombat 3: To break it down, Shao Khan revives his dead wife on Earthrealm, allowing him to step through the boundaries separating it from Outworld and claim her, thus forcing a merger of the two realms without the need of the eponymous tournament. Not only that, but he immediately steals the souls of everyone on Earth, and sends out extermination squads to take care of The Chosen Ones who had their souls spared. He barely avoided victory, due to his underestimating the power and tenacity of his foes.
    • Mortal Kombat 9 sees things get worse: Raiden's attempts to prevent Armageddon see the situation deteriorate until the only surviving Earthrealm warriors are Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade. The only reason Shao Khan's attempt to conquer the realm failed was because Raiden finally realized that the future message of "He must win" referred to Shao Khan: allowing him to conquer Earthrealm would force the Elder Gods into action.
    • Mortal Kombat X had this happen twice. The first time Shinnok manages to reach the Jinsei, essentially the life force of the Earth realm, and is about to absorb it. But Johnny Cage's Shadow Power turns out to be able counter his own and, combined with Johnny's fighting skills, he's able to beat Shinnok to which Raiden seals him within Shinnok's own amulet. The second time happens years later, after a convoluted set of events, Shinnok is freed and once more attacks the Jinsei. This time he does absorb it, gains a monstrous new form and almost brings about Earth's destruction. But Johnny's daughter, Cassie, fights him this time and well, History Repeats, only this time Shinnok is killed and Raiden manages to undo the damage...if not with unexpected side effects to his personality.
    • Mortal Kombat 11 doubles up on this as well. The main story has the heroes struggling against Kronika and her minions throughout, but eventually start racking up decisive victories, up to and including the birth of Fire God Liu Kang; unfortunately, since Kronika has everything she needs to rewrite history and the time to make it happen, only this last bit is not rewound out of existence, even if it ends with her fused into glass and shattered. And then there's Aftermath, where Kronika suffers worse losses and gets completely destroyed... or, should we say, eaten by Shang Tsung, who spent the entire story scheming to take the Crown and eliminate all his competition in one fell swoop. What makes it this is that Fire God Liu Kang saw this coming and planned around Shang Tsung doing exactly that, only to dive in at the last second and loot the Crown from him. Only the player can decide if Shang Tsung gets away with it in the end, and it's this if he doesn't.
  • The Fallout series does this in every episode.
    • Fallout: while you are hunting for the Master and the Vats, the mutant army is on the doorstep of Vault 13.
    • Fallout 2: by the time you get to the Oil Rig, the Enclave is ready to launch the modified FEV biotoxin into a jetstream which would completely depopulate North America.
    • Fallout 3: fortunately for the good guys, the Enclave doesn't know the code to activate Project Purity which results in the Brotherhood launching a desperate siege and pushing them out of there. However, the Enclave was about to use their Kill Sat on the Citadel afterwards so it counts as two.
    • Fallout: New Vegas has this as a possible ending; depending on how thoroughly you complete sidequests and make friends with folks that have a lot of firepower, the ultimate battle for Hoover Dam is either an unbelievably harsh battle of attrition, or a hysterically drawn out Curb-Stomp Battle as all your allies come rushing in for one Big Damn Heroes moment after the other.
  • Halo:
    • At the end of Halo 2 and the middle of Halo 3, the Halos were activated and charging, and just a few minutes from firing and killing all life in the galaxy just before the heroes could push the off switch.
    • At the end of Halo 4, the Didact's ship is already in position to annihilate all life on Earth (in fact, he's already taken out one city) when Chief and Cortana are finally able to stop him.
  • The first Mass Effect game had you racing against time to stop Saren and Sovereign from opening the secret Mass Relay built into the Citadel to let the Reaper fleet through and begin the massacre of all sentient life in the galaxy.
    • However, it's clear that the invasion is still coming and Shepard's actions have, at most, merely delayed it. This is proved true in The Arrival when Shepard is forced to destroy a Mass Relay and an entire inhabited solar system to buy the Galaxy some time. It turns out this was only several months, as the invasion finally happens in Mass Effect 3.
    • Cerberus comes very close to pulling off this and a Team Rocket Wins in the third game, by going on the offensive and repeatedly hampering everyone's attempts to combat the Reapers effectively. Eventually the Alliance is forced to perform an all-out assault after they steal crucial information needed to finish the Crucible.
  • King's Quest:
    • The second Air Gem test in the Fan Remake of King's Quest II. The canonical games glossed over this point, but the kingdom is in ruins, the hero's kids have been condemned to death, and the hero himself is close to breaking... then in walks the Big Bad offering a Deal with the Devil.
    • Canonical ones in the series: walking into the wedding hall in King's Quest VI to see "Cassima" enthusiastically declaring her intent to marry the Grand Vizier. And in King's Quest IV when Lolotte nastily declares that Rosella will have the Standard Hero Reward of marrying her grotesque "son" turns out he's just a prisoner, too, strips Rosella of all her possessions, and locks her up.
  • In the Space Quest series: Roger is captured by Vohaul in Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge, shrunken down to miniature size, and shoved in a jar while Vohaul readies the launch of his clone army of life insurance salesmen. In Space Quest V, Roger is stranded on the bridge of the Goliath, surrounded by Pukoids, and the ship's heading for Confederation space, ready to spread The Corruption to all of known space. If you prepared for this, then WD-40 and Cliffy show up for a Big Damn Heroes moment. Space Quest VI isn't as dramatic, but it is sad. After the Big Bad tried to kill Roger, Stellar shows up and pulls a Heroic Sacrifice. He can only bang on the door helplessly as she appears to succumb to the gas. Worse, Sharpei is going to get away with it because she is the wealthy and well-connected widow of a famous admiral while Roger and Stellar are "just" a janitor and soldier.
  • In FreeSpace Shivans were held in the last moment from entering Sol system with their near-invulnerable superdestroyer Lucifer and destroying Earth. The human strike forcess that were sent to destroy Lucifer were ambushed on the numerous occasions, narrowly preventing their own destruction and almost being too late before final engagement. And all of that wouldn't be even possible without Deux Ex Machina miracle that was discovery of the precursor relic. It gave the Terrans and Vasudans the crucial information of how to destroy Lucifer and allowed a small team of pilots to intercept her inside subspace, where her inpenetrable shields were turned off.
  • Pokémon had been slowly hedging in that direction for a while with the villains of Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald and Diamond/Pearl/Platinum coming ever closer to their goals.
    • In Pokémon Black and White, the bad guys got their legendary. They proceed to defeat the league champion, leaving them with the firepower and the moral authority to get the region to release their Pokémon. In their castle (which has risen from the ground to surround the Elite Four headquarter), scientists are hacking into the Pokémon storage system, elevating them to global threat. And while N wishes to face you in a one on one battle first, the Sages are a little more pragmatic and intend to take you six on one and quite likely kill you before you make it that far. If you do, you still don't have, or don't know where to find, the opposite legendary, which might even the odds a little in that battle. You have the stone to awaken him, but no idea where or how to use it. Then your childhood friend Bianca rounds up the gym leaders of Unova who hold off the sages, and the stone you've been carrying all along ends up working at the last minute. The rest is up to you.
    • In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, Cyrus arguably comes even closer than Ghetsis. Even if N had beaten the player character, that wouldn't necessarily have handed him the region since there are plenty of other strong trainers about (particularly Cynthia) and there's the very real possibility that N would have worked out what was going on and stopped Ghetsis personally. Throughout Diamond, Pearl and Platinum, you fail to stop any of Galactic's Commanders or Cyrus even once, up to and including when you reach Spear Pillar, where only a major Deus Ex Machina stops Cyrus' total victory.
    • In Pokémon Sun and Moon, Lusamine momentarily succeeds in her plan by finally traveling to the Ultra Beast dimension and likewise unleashing the Ultra Beasts onto the world. With the only hope that the heroes can prevent this is a vague rumor that the island's Legendary Pokemon lies beyond a vast and trecherous canyon. Fortunately the Pokemon that Lillie has been hiding in her bag the entire time turns out to be the pre-evolution to such a Legendary Pokemon.
  • Command & Conquer had a few of these.
    • To take the most telling example, Kane in Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun was only three hours from launching his World Altering Missle when Mike McNeill arrived to the battlefield. Said missile would have converted all life on the planet into Tiberium-based life.
    • In the meaningfully-named Allied mission "Last Chance" in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, the Soviets almost succeed in using a Psychic Amplifier to mass mind control the entire United States. When the device is destroyed, the Soviet commander in charge of that part of the front is pretty darn livid, immediately detonating a nuclear missile to wipe out Chicago.
    • In the opening of Yuri's Revenge, Yuri activates his Psychic Dominator network, successfully mind controlling most of the planet. It's only due to one of them getting temporarily damaged that a time travel device the Allies built can be activated to undo Yuri's plan.
  • In RuneScape, Lucien has completed the Ritual of Rejuvenation, sacrificing the weakest member of his species to recharge the powers of the rest, and he also has possession of the Stone of Jas, in his attempt to become A God Am I. Then the Dragonkin kill him.
  • In No More Heroes, Jeane managed to shove her fist inside of Travis' heart and need only rip it out. Then enters Shinobu, paying you back for sparing her life, who then proceeds to cut the arm off as Travis goes for the finish.
  • Ōkami eventually gets rather dire as Yami has Ammy near death with her powers cut off and no help coming, but Issun went through with his role of being the person who reminds the world of Ammy, allowing her to regain much of her lost power.
  • In The King of Fighters '94, if Kyo Kusanagi didn't assume the worst when he saw his father unconscious after Rugal beat him to almost death, he would have never gone into an Unstoppable Rage-induced Heroic Second Wind and Rugal would have won. Kyo gets lucky for a second time in the next game when Rugal's own power destroys him.
  • In Hyperdimension Neptunia V, as early as Chapter 3, Mr. Badd could have won against the three CPU goddesses without him having to lift a finger. The only flaw in his plan is an unknown fourth CPU goddess who was present at that time (and to be fair, Vert WAS being covert at that time, trying to observe Lowee's CPU).
  • Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 sets this up right for them start, with the CPUs having been defeated an imprisioned three years ago, and the heroes barely scraping together enough Applied Phlebotinum to rescue one of them. The rest of the game is about turning things around.
  • Ghost Trick is about as damn near close as a story can come. To wit: almost everyone is trapped underwater in the penultimate chapter. The submarine Lynne, Kamila, Sissel, and Missile's ghost are on is unsalvageable. Detective Jowd is elsewhere, dead in a room drifting to the bottom of the ocean. Commander Sith has plucked the Temisk fragment from Yomiel's body and is on his way back to his homeland. The only way the protagonists end up standing a chance is by launching Sissel and Missile's ghosts to Jowd's location via torpedo, rewinding back to Jowd's death, then rewinding back to Yomiel's "death" in Temisk Park ten years ago to finally Set Right What Once Was Wrong. Essentially the timeline that you left behind when Sissel was launched on the torpedo is completely doomed and you only save everyone by rewriting history.
  • By the end of the first Robopon, Dr. Zero has completed his revenge on Prince Tail, imprisoned Princess Darcy, and controls everything on Porombo Island. Cody is the only one that's able to stop him at all.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction, both Reshef and Bandit Keith come very close to winning; Keith loses because the Winged Dragon of Ra refused to awaken for him and fried him with lightning when he forced you to hand Slifer over. Reshef only loses because Yugi, Joey, and Kaiba team up and weaken him to the point where he's barely beatable. Even after you win, he then tries to take over Pegasus completely and almost succeeds anyway.
  • Big Bad Raul Menendez of Call of Duty: Black Ops II is the epiphany of this trope. After witnessing the death of his parents in his childhood and finally, the loss of his daughter at the hands of Frank Woods, Raul plots a plan that almost entirely kills not just the JSOC, but the entire US. He literally had the US at their mercy, and if it wasn't for Section, then chances are that Cordis Die could have ravaged the world.
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Mankar Camoran and his Mythic Dawn cult are defeated just prior to the climax of the game, though they succeed in their ultimate goal of summoning Mehrunes Dagon, the Daedric Prince of Destruction, to the mortal world at full power. With Dagon towering over the Imperial City, it appears that all hope has been lost for mortal-kind. Then, Martin performs a Heroic Sacrifice, shattering the Amulet of Kings to become an avatar of Akatosh. Martin/Akatosh banishes Dagon, saving the world, but takes the life of the last in the Septim line in the process.
  • Happens very often in the Tomb Raider series:
    • The Big Bad in Tomb Raider II manages to steal the magical artifact for himself before Lara can get to it and gains its powers. Lara barely manages to defeat him when he gains his powered up dragon form and steal the dagger back.
    • Tomb Raider III has the Big Bad steal all the artifacts Lara had collected and uses them to activate the meteorite's power to transform into a freakishly mutated giant spider creature. Lara barely prevents the bad guy from winning by taking the artifacts back, which depowers him, and then killing him.
    • Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation has Lara running around collecting armor pieces that can summon Horus so that he can defeat the evil god Set. However, Set's powers are too strong and he cancels Horus's summoning. Lara can't cause any harm to Set with her weapons either, but she manages avoid him long enough to escape his chamber and reseal him before he can destroy the world.
  • Blazblue: Yuuki Terumi's victory or defeat comes down to the very wire. 99% of all existence has been destroyed, he's found the gates to the Azure (which would give him all the power he needs To Create a Playground for Evil), easily defeated its guardian and even got past the gate into the Azure itself. It comes down to a one-to-one duel between him and Ragna in that spot. If you lose that match, Terumi absolutely and completely wins.
  • Body Harvest: The opening cinematic shows the aliens returning to wipe out the last human survivors on a space station after already harvesting most of humanity. Adam is the only Supersoldier who manages to escape by a hair's breath and actually use the Time Machine to correct the past.
  • In Trials of Mana, the Big Bad succeeds in Acquiring the Sword of Mana, releasing 8 Beasts of the Apocalypse from imprisonment, absorbing the power of the Sword and the 8 beasts into themselves, elevating themselves to god-hood, and killing the goddess of mana before the heroes are able to defeat them.

    Web Animation 
  • At the climax of Volume 5 in RWBY, the heroes are locked in a desperate battle to save Haven Academy against the treacherous headmaster, an evil Maiden, an entire terrorist cell, a powerhouse who's immune to pain, an illusionist and an assassin, and they barely survive long enough for a force of police and civilians with shields to arrive and render the situation more balanced. And when the evil Maiden gets defeated by another Maiden who'd been Hiding in Plain Sight after trying to pull a backstab, the day gets narrowly saved.

  • Deliberately invoked in The Order of the Stick by Tarquin. He's a Genre Savvy believer in the Theory of Narrative Causality. He thus takes heart in the fact that while The Good Guys Always Win (maybe), they tend to win against a bad guy who was so powerful and reigned for so long no one thought he could be beaten. And Tarquin is fine with being defeated in the end in exchange for being an all powerful despot for a few decades before it happens. So he's already won, and gets to keep on winning and getting more powerful unless/until somebody beats him.
    • On top of that, his Good-aligned son is the most likely to take him down, which plays right into his plan to keep on winning by becoming part of a legendary struggle of good vs. evil, so he can inspire generations of new villains with his example of how to live the good life. Unfortunately for him, Elan is Genre Savvy enough to know that's what he wants, and after destroying Tarquin's power base, he abandons his father in a desert with enough supplies to escape - the story ends not with a triumphant final battle, but with the villain humiliatingly tossed aside like nothing.
  • During the "Holiday Wars" arc in Sluggy Freelance, Bun-Bun actually succeeds in killing all the major holiday figures and acquiring their power. He's poised to take over the world and rewrite reality in his image, and the only MacGuffin that can return things to normal is in his possession. It takes two Chessmasters using their own deaths to launch a last minute day saving plan, as well as Bun-Bun's Living Shadow being a Unwitting Pawn, to take him down.
  • Tower of God: Kim Lurker nearly wins the Room Game by killing Sacrificial Lamb Nia, hypnotizing Yeon and stealing Wangnan's room, so that all that is left for him to win is to take Prince's room, who is currently locked in there with the traitorous Rapdevil. Then Wangnan somehow manages to win Viole for his cause, who simply curb stomps the villain's team.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • In the very first episode, "Super Special Sonic Search and Smash Squad", Scratch and Grounder catch Tails, forcing Sonic to give himself up lest Tails be hurt. Both of them are successfully imprisoned with no escape in sight and the two robots call Robotnik in to claim their reward. Their scheme only fails because Coconuts wants to take credit and Sonic successfully tricks the monkey into putting Scratch and Grounder in the cage so that he could escape. Had Coconuts not interfered, Robotnik would've won before the show even hit its second episode! Of course, being that it was an Origins Episode being told by Sonic, it's only natural things turned out the way they did.
    • Robotnik actually comes very close to defeating Sonic a fair few times. He does so each time he gains a Chaos Emerald in the four-parter arc, only for Sonic to usually manipulate some time paradox against him.
    • Another example from the Chaos Emerald saga is in the third part, "Robotnik's Pyramid Scheme", where Sonic's Egyptian ancestor never met his future wife at a chilli dog stand, leading Sonic himself subject to being Ret-Gone. After this, Tails takes it upon himself to play matchmaker.
    • The Clip Show "Hero of the Year" has Sonic surrender to stop Robotnik from drowning his friends by sinking a yacht, only for Robotnik to lie and set the yacht to sink anyway, with Sonic trapped at the bottom of the ocean in an escape-proof cell that would cut off his oxygen supply if anyone tried to save him. Robotnik promises Wes Weasely his own shopping channel in exchange for helping him with this plan, but it is later revealed that Weasely isn't actually allowed to broadcast it. This inspires Weasely to turn against Robotnik and help Sonic save his friends.
    • Momma Robotnik comes closest of all in "Momma Robotnik Returns" when she disguises herself and becomes Sonic and Tails' legal guardian; Sonic is practically helpless to stop her from taking over Mobius with a supercomputer, since she takes Tails hostage. Sonic has to be saved by Coconuts and none other than Robotnik himself, both of whom rat her out to a social worker to avenge her mistreatment of them.
  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: "Shoot Out". The Queen has three Rangers in chains, displaying them like a trophy. The fourth is competing for his life in a Blood Sport where the Queen's new champion has shot and wounded him. The animation where she's on her feet cheering while her captives look on in dismay is wonderfully done.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • This happens three times in Avatar: The Last Airbender: the Fire Nation ultimately wins the war at the end of the second season when Princess Azula conquers Ba Sing Se, forcing Aang and his friends into hiding on enemy territory. Later in season 3, the few remaining pockets of resistance unite for a surprise counter-attack on the Fire Nation capital; it fails, costing the Avatar most of his remaining allies. At the end, with a super-charged Fire Lord Ozai preparing the killing blow against Aang, the Fire Nation's victory seemed irreversible until Aang regains access to the Avatar State and defeats Ozai.
    • From the Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, Amon comes within seconds of completing his plan, having successfully robbed Korra of her powers and taken over Republic City. The only reasons he fails are beyond his control; namely Korra suddenly being able to airbend and his own survival instincts.
    • All of the Arc Villains in Korra come close to winning only to be defeated at the last second; Unalaq merges with Vaatu, destroys Raava, and puts Republic City under siege, only for Korra to have a Heroic Second Wind and defeat him (with help from Jinora), Zaheer successfully poisons Korra and wears her down to near death, but all his friends die, he's captured and Suyin is able to Bend the poison out of Korra's body, and Kuvira captures Republic City with her Humongous Mecha superweapon, but fails to kill Korra and gives the heroes enough time to rally and fight back.
  • Occurs throughout the first season of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien. Aggregor successfully manages to drain the powers of all four of the Andromeda Galaxy aliens, gather all four pieces of the Map of Infinity and locates the Forge of Creation, where he intends to drain the powers of a baby Celestapian and be omnipotent. He defeats the members of Ben's Team and reaches to grab the baby, only to be suddenly stopped by once again mutated Kevin and is drained of the powers of the aliens he had absorbed knocking him out.
  • In the Codename: Kids Next Door movie Operation: Z.E.R.O., the Big Bad Grandfather has crushed the Kids Next Door, turned everyone into Senior Citizombies, and has re-established his tapioca factories by transforming the KND Treehouses. However, he still remembers that the last time he ruled the world, he was stopped because the Book of KND had inspired his son Numbuh Zero to rebel against him, which lead to his defeat and decommissioning. So in order to cement his victory, he plans to destroy the Book of KND so that it never inspires anyone to rise against him ever again. Despite the recommissioned Numbuh Zero stalling him for as long as he could, he ultimately does get his hands on the Book. However, in mere seconds of doing so, before Grandfather even has a chance to destroy the Book, the plan to drop the Moon Base on him goes off which allows them to get him in a decommissioning chamber to erase his memory again.
  • Elena of Avalor:
    • In "Spellbound", Fiero is close to ruling Avalor and having everyone stoned forever, until Matteo turns his own spell back on him, turning him to stone instead.
    • In "A Spy in the Palace", a disguised Carla was within one second of grabbing the Carnival tiara from the treasury, but is called back to the Jaquin Festival by Naomi, making her scheme a complete waste.
    • In the climax of "Song of the Sirenas", Elena was almost killed by Shuriki, but thanks to using her scepter's magic at just the right moment, she survives and kills her.
  • In the made-for-TV Felix the Cat cartoons, while Professor and Rock Bottom never earned a true victory over Felix, they've come pretty close on occasion. In "Oil and Indians Don't Mix", Professor and Rock Bottom succeed in setting up an Oil Rig near Felix's diner and strike black gold, but the subsequent spout of it is so strong, that they're sent flying helplessly in the air, unable to claim Felix's oil. In "Felix's Gold Mine", Professor and Rock Bottom nearly win out over Felix, only to their plan to be foiled by a Deus ex Machina (namely, two birds that abruptly show up and carry them away, causing them to drop their money in surprise).
    • In "Master Cylinder Captures Poindexter", Master Cylinder comes dangerously close in his goal of destroying the Earth with a meteor. Felix only narrowly averts disaster by breaking free of Cylinder's trap and using Poindexter's spaceship to drag and fling the meteor into the moon, where it harmlessly explodes on impact.
  • The Fairly Oddparents:
    • In the climax of "Christmas Everyday", the Easter Bunny comes within a mere second of sending Santa to February 33rd, but every child in the world Timmy encountered shows up to save the day.
    • In "Boys in the Band", Vicky comes close to marrying Chip Skylark until Wanda brings the record company executive to reveal Chip is not rich.
  • In the first part of the Gravity Falls series finale "Weirdmageddon", Bill Cipher escapes from his Nightmare Realm and takes over Gravity Falls, turning it into his personal World of Chaos. Over the next two parts, Dipper Pines rallies his friends and family against Bill and his demon army, and despite a few close calls and Grunkle Stan having his memories temporarily erased to destroy Bill once and for all, everything ends fairly happily.
  • This happens several times in Jackie Chan Adventures, at the end of each seasonal storyline. For most of the season, the heroes keep beating the villains to whatever the magical artifact of the week is, thus negating their evil plans... until the last episode, in which the villains somehow get their hands on all of the artifacts (or otherwise win with a successful backup plan) which brings them very close to breaking free and achieving global domination, until they're finally defeated and banished/imprisoned for good.
  • In the series finale for Justice League Unlimited, Darkseid delivers an utter asskicking on Superman for almost the entire episode and constantly taunts him about how he's going to win. Even after Superman's "No More Holding Back" Speech and awesome Megaton Punch, Darkseid immediately turns the tide back into his favor by simply changing tactics activating an Agony Matrix that leaves Superman completely helpless. As Darkseid pulls out a kryptonite knife to carve out Superman's heart for a trophy (and yes, this is a kids' show), Lex Luthor shows up with the Anti-Life Equation. For those who know the lore behind Darkseid and the New Gods, they know why this affects the outcome.
  • The Supreme One Shego from A Sitch in Time of Kim Possible had every hero captured and was finishing them off, when Dr. Drakken got her to do some Evil Gloating. Would be a great idea, if it didn't trigger Ron Stoppable's Berserk Button.
  • In the third season finale of Mia and Me, Lord Drakon would've obtained Onchao's golden horn and regained his physical form if Gargona and Dax hadn't stopped before throwing it into the pool of green fluid to ask about their rewards, allowing the heroes to catch up to them. And even when the heroes did arrive, it was still a really close call.
  • Miraculous Ladybug:
    • In "The Puppeteer," the titular villain is able to talke control of anyone who she has a doll of, which she uses to turn Alya, Nathaniel, and Roger into their akumatized forms and control them, and she also gets Cat Noir under her control as well. Ladybug defeats her by managing to use Lady Wifi's ability to pause her, right when she's about to take control of Ladybug through a doll of her.
    • "Dark Owl" and "Troublemaker", have the villain of the episode taking off one of Ladybug's earrings, causing her to start detransforming. Luckily, she manages to get it back in both instances before she fully destransforms.
    • In "Zombizou" and "Chameleon", Hawk Moth sends an akuma after Marinette, and would have unintentionally stumbled into a surefire victory had he managed to akumatize her. However, both times Marinette manages to keep enough of a positive attitude to prevent it from happening.
    • "Party Crasher" has the titular villain capture Ladybug first, and the other heroes who Master Fu gave their Miraculouses to for backup (Carapace, Viperion, and Pegasus), and Chat Noir. He would have successfully delivered them to Hawk Moth if not for King Monkey's power when Fu gives out another Miraculous.
    • "Ladybug" has Hawk Moth unknowingly become very close to winning. He akumatizes Nathalie into Catalyst to expand his powers and send out many akumas, one of which actually reaches Marinette, and she begins to remove her earrings. But then Nathalie/Catalyst suffers more symptoms from using the damaged Peacock Miraculous, causing him to drop what he's doing to help her, which makes the akumas leave. If not for that, Marinette would have not only handed him her Miraculous but also revealed her identity.
    • In "Miracle Queen," there are a few times where Snake Noir (Cat Noir using the Snake Miraculous) has to use Second Chance because Ladybug has either lost her powers or been taken control of.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • It happened in the very first episode of the very first season. Nightmare Moon popped up, carried out her plan, removed her sister, set her traps, destroyed the Elements of Harmony...except that last step turned out to have failed.
    • Happens in "The Return Of Harmony". Discord has emotionally broken and Mind Raped five of the Mane Cast already to the point the Elements Of Harmony — the only magic that can defeat him — are useless and driven Twilight Sparkle across the Despair Event Horizon, completely shattering the mane cast's friendship. With the heroes crushed and beaten, Discord takes over Equestria, transforming it into a surreal World Gone Mad that's growing more chaotic by the moment, with Ponyville as his new "chaos capital of the world". However, his victory is snatched away from his grasp when Celestia sends Twilight all the letters her student had sent her over the last season, which restores Twilight's hope and motivates her to restore her friends to normal. Reunited, the group confront Discord and his own pride and belief the Elements of Harmony won't work causes him not to realize this until its too late. Discord is sealed away and a World-Healing Wave created by the Elements of Harmony restores Equestria to normal.
    • Happens again in the Season 2 finale. The Changeling Queen has destroyed the barrier protecting Canterlot, unleashed her hordes upon the city to feed off the love of all the ponies, and has even defeated Celestia in a straight-up fight by tapping into Shining Armor's love for Cadence. Even worse, the Mane 6 fail to reach the Elements of Harmony in time, and are captured by the thousands of changelings that now storm the city. Unfortunately for the queen, she forgot that Cadence and Shining Armor are still in the room, and that Cadence's magic is the ability to make ponies love each other. The result is Shining Armor getting a massive injection of the Power of Love, which gives him enough power to reset the barrier and blast all of the changelings out of Canterlot once and for all.
    • The Season 3 two parter also has this happen, with a twist. King Sombra's near victory is the result of his actions taken before the story even starts. Cadence's magic gives out, causing the barrier keeping Sombra locked out to fail and Sombra himself to enter the Crystal Empire. Twilight ends up trapped by a crystal barrier, which also begins to corrupt the Empire from the inside and prevents her from getting the Crystal Heart where it needs to be defeat Sombra. Spike manages to get the Crystal Heart and try to get it to where it can defeat Sombra, but Sombra attacks, coming within a few inches of capturing or possibly killing him before Shining Armor throws Cadence like a javelin to catch Spike and the Heart, allowing them to power it up and kill King Sombra.
    • "Twilight's Kingdom, Part 2", Tirek claiming Discord's magic and all the magic Twilight had been carrying with her means he had technically won. There wasn't a creature alive in Equestria with enough magic to constrain him at that point. So the team has to tap into an 11th-Hour Superpower to break through.
    • In "The Cutie Map", Starlight Glimmer is only defeated thanks to three chance reasons: The ponies get lucky and expose her fake cutie mark, the townsponies (who willingly followed her philosophy to begin with) decided to turn on her rather than accept her well-justified reason for keeping her own cutie mark, and those random villagers managed to (just barely) stop Starlight before she escaped. This is probably the closest the Mane 6 ever came to utter defeat, and that is saying a lot.
    • It's only made worse in the Season 6 finale, "To Where and Back Again", as within the span of a few hours that Starlight Glimmer was out of Ponyville visiting her old village with Trixie, Queen Chrysalis and her Changelings, in both another invasion attempt on Equestria and Revenge on the Royal Family and Elements of Harmony for her previous defeat at the Royal Wedding, have managed to sweep into the country and kidnap all of them without being discovered, replacing all of them with fakes. Every Alicorn Princess, Shining Armor, Spike, and the Mane Six, have been taken back to Chrysalis' hive to be kept prisoner in cocoons, with their magic inaccessible due to Chrysalis' throne, leaving it up to Starlight, Trixie, Discord, and Thorax to mount a rescue attempt that ultimately fails. That is, until Starlight convinces Thorax to willingly give Chrysalis his love energy, sending her flying into her throne and cracking it. This causes Chrysalis' own Swarm to turn on her, and the resulting surge of love energy ends up destroying her throne and throne room, frees her prisoners from their cocoons as the throne room's destruction caused the cocoons to fall and break open, and with her sorely outnumbered by the Royal Family, Elements of Harmony, Master of Chaos, her reformed Swarm, and their new leader, King Thorax, Chrysalis has no choice but to retreat in utter defeat, but not without swearing a new vendetta against Starlight for taking everything away from her.
    • Twice in the made-for-TV movie, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks. First, the Hu-Mane Six are sent down a trapdoor and Locked in a Room under the stage, and the negative energy produced by their argument begins to give the Dazzlings more power than they dreamed of, but Sunset Shimmer snaps them out of it and Spike fetches DJ PON-3 to unlock the door. Second, during the final battle, the Dazzlings' siren avatars initially overpower the Rainbooms, knocking the mic from Twilight's hands, but Sunset grabs it and joins the band along with DJ PON-3 providing a beat, allowing them to summon their own alicorn avatar and turn the tide.
    • In the climax of the Season 8 finale "School Raze", Cozy Glow has manipulated the students into turning against Chancellor Neighsay and the non-Pony creatures, and is destroying all magic in Equestria. She comes within two seconds of sending the Young Six to another dimension, but the Tree of Harmony saves them, and they foil her plan and restore the magic.
  • The Powerpuff Girls has this in the episode "Knock It Off". The professor's old colleague, Dick Hardly, starts creating knockoffs of the girls to become rich and famous. He even defeats the original girls by draining them of their Chemical X. And if the knockoffs hadn't realized his cruelty and betrayed him, he would have definetly got away with it.
    • In "Stray Bullet", Mojo Jojo irrevocably traps the girls and almost succeeds in destroying them until the little squirrel that Bubbles nursed to health with Chemical X shows up and kicks his butt.
  • Played with on ReBoot: Megabyte takes advantage of the chaos during the Web invasion to get rid of Bob and cripple Mainframe's defense forces, but he's then imprisoned by Enzo at the start of the third season. Because the series follows Enzo's adventures in the Games after that, we don't know what happens to Mainframe until he rescues Bob and finds a way home - only to find that Megabyte escaped and conquered the city a long time ago.
  • Samurai Jack; in the penultimate episode, Aku forcibly turns Ashi into a Humanoid Abomination and Jack, unwilling to kill the woman he loves, surrenders to his nemesis. The finale opens with Aku broadcasting Jack's capture and pending execution to the world, but he wastes enough time waffling over how to kill the samurai that Jack's allies launch a counterattack to save him. This in turn gives Jack a chance to break free, snap Ashi out of her brainwashing, and get back to the past to destroy Aku once and for all.
  • In episode 13 of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Entrapta uses the Black Garnet Runestone to hack the power distribution network of Etheria, weakening the princesses. Simultaneously, Catra launches a massive siege on Brightmoon city in an effort to destroy their runestone. They come within a single cannon shot of winning before Adora/She-Ra Ass Pulls a victory.
  • Spongebob Squarepants
    • At the end of the episode "Frozen Face-Off" this happens to Plankton, then the snow monster confuses him for a jellybean.
    • In "Single Cell Anniversary", Plankton successfully gets Karen to upload the krabby patty formula until her Tears of Joy from the song he sang short her out.
  • In the Superman: The Animated Series episode "World's Finest", The Joker comes to Metropolis with an enormous amount of kryptonite to make a deal with Lex Luthor to kill Superman. Both Luthor and Superman severely underestimate the Joker as just some wacky clown, until the Joker traps Superman in a room with acid and half of the kryptonite. By the end, the Joker is dancing over Superman's nearly lifeless body and is only stopped by Batman's timely intervention, a man who Luthor and Superman also underestimated.
  • Happened a lot in Totally Spies!, such as the second episode, "The New Jerry", with the Spies trapped in a space capsule and Tim Scam firing on the Earth with the Evapo-Blaster.
  • Transformers:
    • Transformers Cybertron uses this. Galvatron has the MacGuffins in his hands. He knocks out Primus himself, and is on the verge of achieving his desire of godhood. The universe is minutes from being consumed by the Unicron Singularity, leaving Galvatron to remake things in his own image. The Autobot leaders - Optimus Prime, Override, Scourge, Evac, and Metroplex - manage to kick his aft by combining their Cyber Key attacks (leading to him having the following Oh, Crap! moment: "Uh-oh.", which works beautifully as delivered by David Kaye). But he's not through yet. Galvatron, in a last act of spite, pitches the Omega Lock and Cyber Planet Keys into the Unicron Singularity. If he can't win, nobody will. But even this fails. Override, Scourge, Evac, and Metroplex recover the keys, and Optimus Prime snatches the lock back from the jaws of the event horizon. The lock and keys couple to Primus' body, fully reconnecting his spark and bringing him back to full power. He uses the massive starship Ark to channel his power as a Wave-Motion Gun, firing it at the Unicron Singularity. The unnatural black hole of doom shudders, contorts, and disappears. His work done for now, Primus transforms back into Cybertron. But not as it had been, chewed up by the hell of war. It is reborn as a paradise for humans and Transformers alike. Just goes to show, the closer to ultimate victory you are, the harder you fall when it's snatched away.
      • But there's still more. In the next episode, it's the Final Battle. Optimus Prime versus Galvatron, to the death. Galvatron has Optimus knocked flat on the ground, face in the dirt of one of Cybertron's moons. As he brings his sword down for the killing blow, Vector Prime uses the planet map (his last physical link to the linear universe) to block Galvatron's blade as well as give Optimus Prime his sword Rhisling. Optimus uses it, combined with the power of the Matrix of Leadership, to skewer Galvatron, killing him. Galvatron gives his fitting Famous Last Words Final Speech: "I still function... you haven't... won... not while my... spark... still burns... ha ha ha ha ha ha..." before crumbling to ashes that are swept away by the lunar winds.
    • Beast Wars Megatron has been just a hair away from victory three times. The first time, he nearly erased the Maximals from existance by killing Optimus Prime four million years before he woke up. The second was when he found the repaired Nemesis and tried to use it to kill the Autobots still offline in the Ark. The third time he absorbed nearly all the sparks on Cybertron, became a god, and tried to remake Cybertron in his own image.
    • Transformers: Prime: The aptly named "Darkest Hour" sees the Decepticons destroy the Autobot base and scatter Autobots to the winds, while Optimus himself is reduced to a near death state.
    • In Transformers: Cyberverse Starscream comes dangerously close to defeating both the Autobots and the Decepticons once he gets his hands on the Allspark.
      • First, he unleashes a horde of scraplets on the Decepticons and has them at his mercy. An Autobot strike force answering a distress call is quickly overwhelmed and only Cheetor's connection as guardian of the Allspark allows to sever Starscream's connection to the Allspark's power.
      • Later, Starscream unlocks the power of the Allspark, gains near omnipotence, and takes out the combined Autobot and Decepticon forces sent to stop him. A last ditch blast from the Matrix of Leadership from Optimus is the only thing that saves everyone.
  • Dick Dastardly appeared to have won the race in the Wacky Races episode "Creepy Trip To Lemon Twist", until the judges ask to see a slow-motion replay. It shows Dastardly extending the nose of his car ahead of the other racers. He is disqualified and the race awarded to Penelope Pitstop.
  • Every Big Bad in Wakfu comes within a hairsbreadth of victory, only for circumstances to turn against them at the last moment.
    • Nox seeks to travel back in time to save the family he had failed 200 years prior to the show, an act which would also undo all of the myriad of atrocities he had committed up until that point in the pursuit of that goal. Despite the heroes' efforts he successfully drains the Sadida's Tree of Life, resulting in the death of their entire race, in a bid to power an ancient artifact that he believes will allow him to turn back time. In the final battle between him and The Hero, Yugo, it looks for a moment as if Yugo is going to win. However, Nox uses a momentary distraction to kill (well, maybe knock out, since he does the same thing to Yugo's dad in the second episode, and he lived) Yugo. With The Hero dead, Nox uses all the energy he had collected over the last 200 years to travel back in time. Unfortunately for Nox, that is barely even enough to travel back in time 20 minutes. In a bit of a twist the ending might actually have been happier if it had been a complete villain victory instead of merely a Near-Villain Victory.
    • Qilby has successfully overpowered Yugo and the rest of the Eliatropes despite their final assault actually doing a significant amount of damage to him. He reunites with his Dofus and his sister Shinonome still within it, planning on going through with his intention of draining the wakfu of the World of 12 so the two of them can roam the cosmos again...only for Shinonome, who's had a Heel Realization in the past 10,000 years or so since they've been separated, to forcibly separate him from the Eliacube, severely De Powering and weakening him while giving Yugo the opportunity to snatch it up and imprison Qilby once again in the White Dimension.
    • Despite the best efforts of Sadlygrove and Yugo having both reached the level of Physical God through different means, Ogrest and his dragons still overpower them and leave them helpless. The only reason Ogrest doesn't crush them to death with the final blow is because Otomai successfully at the moment manages to remove the Six Primordial Dofus that were the source of Ogrest's power and his connection to his dragons from Ogrest's stomach, resulting in the ogre being Brought Down to Normal and back to his senses.
    • Oropo once he manages to go One-Winged Angel overpowers the heroes' best efforts to stop him and he actually succeeds in his goal to rip open a Hyperzaap to the world of the gods and prepare the Fantastic Nuke he intends to use to destroy them. The only reason he loses is because Lady Echo sends the Brotherhood and the remaining Siblings through the Hyperzaap first, forcing him to choose between his dream and the bonds (however much he tried to hide them) he made with them all. Ultimately, Oropo can't bring himself to sacrifice them for his dream, and since he was Living on Borrowed Time anyways he brings the bomb back with him to Echo, who didn't have any intentions of trying to escape death after all she had done, leading the two of them to embrace and kiss before the bomb goes off and annihilates the dimension they're inside of.
  • Wander over Yonder: By the end of the second season, Lord Dominator had succeeded in destroying the entire galaxy, except for a Secret Planet she knew nothing about.
  • Lord Darkar from Winx Club was seconds from obtaining the power of the Realix and securing his victory when Bloom managed to break free from his control and hijacked the Realix power.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Eucatastrophe



Rapunzel willingly decides to go with Gothel if she heals Eugene, facing living life in isolation once again, but he cuts her hair, causing Gothel to lose her youth and turn to dust while allowing Rapunzel her freedom.

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Example of:

Main / NearVillainVictory

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Main / NearVillainVictory