Iconic Moments: Everton survive by the skin of their teeth (May 1998)

After 44 years of unbroken top-flight existence, Everton’s status was in severe jeopardy going into the final day of the 1997-1998 Premier League season. For the second time in five years, they went into a final round of fixtures in the bottom three and needing a better result than their relegation rivals to avoid the drop to the First Division. They had achieved it in 1994 against Wimbledon with Sheffield United the unfortunate side to experience the heartache of relegation.

In 1998, they were in a head-to-head battle with Bolton Wanderers. Everton were a point behind and had a more favourable fixture at home to Coventry City, whilst Bolton were travelling to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea. Things went Everton’s way in their match when Gareth Farrelly’s terrific early strike put them 1-0 ahead. Bolton fell behind to a goal from Gianluca Vialli in west London but there were to be exciting final twists.

Everton’s Nick Barmby saw a penalty saved by Magnus Hedman and when Dion Dublin equalised for Coventry with an arching header three minutes from time, Bolton knew the situation. A leveller at Chelsea would keep them up and even the Chelsea supporters were urging the Trotters to equalise. This was after Everton had suggested earlier in the week that Chelsea wouldn’t be motivated to win as they had a Cup Winners’ Cup final on the horizon days later against VfB Stuttgart.

In stoppage-time, the home supporters began booing their own players but in a counter-attack, Jody Morris finished off the contest and Bolton’s chances. Fans cheered Morris’ goal but less enthusiastically as any other Chelsea goal scored at Stamford Bridge all season. Chelsea’s 2-0 win meant a point would be enough for Everton and they held on for their draw by the skin of their teeth to achieve another manic final day escape from relegation, this time courtesy of only goal difference.

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