emirates fa cup third round

Emirate's FA Cups Third Round

Ahead of the Emirates FA Cup’s Third Round, new mathematical research reveals the 10 most improbable giant killings at this stage of the competition


Ahead of the Third Round of this season’s Emirates FA Cup – a stage that has become synonymous with results that defy logic throughout the competition’s 150-year history – The FA has today released new mathematical research that reveals the 10 most improbable FA Cup Third Round giant-killings.

The FA teamed-up with the Institute for Mathematical Innovation at the University of Bath to commission the research that considered Opta data from more than 8,000 FA Cup ties as part of the process. Using probability theory, the University was able to verify a historical top 10 of the least likely scorelines from the last 50 years of the competition.

In order to perform their calculations, Dr Adwaye Rambojun and Professor Andreas Kyprianou from the University of Bath built a bespoke mathematical model that takes in to account the overall probability of the lower league teams reaching the Third Round, the difference in league status and the timing and sequence of the goals scored in each tie. 

Goal scoring and league position trends across more than 8,000 ties from the competition since the 1959-1960 season were also considered to understand how these factors historically influence the individual outcomes. The formula used in the study is expressed in the mathematical equation below:

FA Cup third round equation

The final list of results features several familiar ‘cupsets’ but now, for the very first time, the fixtures have been ranked in order of the statistical probability of each scoreline occurring.

 Third Tie Round Probability Real-life Example
#1 West Bromwich Albion 2 - 4 Woking, 1991 1 in 15,959,312 Conceiving identical quadruplets (1 in 15,339,390)
#Hereford United 2-1 Newcastle United, 1972 1 in 32,449
Chance of growing to over seven foot tall 
(1 in 26,315) 
#3 Stevenage 3-1 Newcastle United, 2011 1 in 7,712

Rolling five consecutive sixes with a dice

(1 in 7,776)
#4 Birmingham City 1-2 Altrincham, 1986  1 in 4,376 Being dealt a four-of-a-kind poker hand 
(1 in 4,165)
#5 Oxford United 3-2 Swansea City, 2016  1 in 3,487 Scoring a hat-trick in the Final and winning the Emirates FA Cup (1 in 2,993)
#6 Sutton United 2-1 Coventry City, 1989  1 in 3,260 Chance of the Emirates FA Cup trophy landing in the UK if dropped from space 
(1 in 2103)
#7 Burnley 0-1 Wimbledon, 1975 1 in 2,515 Becoming a NASA astronaut (1 in 1,525)
#8 Harlow Town 1-0 Leicester City, 1980 1 in 1,800 Being born on a leap year (1 in 1,461)
#9 Derby County 1-3 Bristol Rovers, 2002 1 in 397 Coin tossing 8 heads in a row (1 in 256)
#10 Newport County 2-1 Leicester City, 2019 1 in 337 Conceiving identical twins (1 in 250)

Discussing the research findings, Andy Ambler, Director of Professional Game Relations at The FA, said: "It’s fascinating to look back at some of the Third Round games that have helped define the Emirates FA Cup and elevated it to the status of the world’s most popular domestic cup competition.

The commissioned research outlines the competition’s ability to regularly defy logic and will hopefully spark many fond memories. In its 150th anniversary season, the Emirates FA Cup retains the values of hope, opportunity and equality. Improbable results are part of the competition’s fabric, providing life changing moments for players, managers, fans and communities alike and I am sure there will be plenty more to come as the competition looks ahead to an exciting future.” 

More details about the forthcoming Emirates FA Cup Third Round can be found on TheFA.com.