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The FA Cup Third-Round weekend is a special time on the footballing calendar with relative minnows being given the opportunity to thrust themselves into the national limelight by taking on England’s elite.

While it’s often debated what the best FA Cup upsets in our lifetimes are, a recent mathematical study has assembled the top 10 greatest giants killings in this particular round of the iconic competition.

This list saw Harlow Town’s famous 1980 win against Leicester City placed firmly in the top 10 of unlikeliest results.

The achievement of the Essex-outfit often goes under the radar among many supporters outside of the county, but it gets the recognition it truly deserves by being ranked eighth in this study.

Read more: Essex weather: Feel-good photos of Essex covered in snow spanning six decades

Teaming up with the FA, Dr Adwaye Rambojun and Professor Andreas Kyprianou from the Institute for Mathematical Innovation at the University of Bath looked at Opta data from more than 8,000 FA Cup ties from the past 50 years to conduct these findings.

The mathematicians developed a model which considers the probability of the lower league teams reaching the third round, the difference in league status between the two sides and the timing and sequence of the goals scored in each tie to draw their conclusions and verify a historical top 10 of the least likely scorelines.

The formula used in the study is expressed in the mathematical equation below:



The equation developed by the Institute for Mathematical Innovation at the University of Bath to calculate Third-Round score probabilities
The equation developed by the Institute for Mathematical Innovation at the University of Bath to calculate Third-Round score probabilities

While Woking’s 1991 victory at West Bromwich Albion came out on top (recording a 1 in 15,959,312 chance), Harlow Town, then of the Isthmian League, ousting the Foxes, of the Second Division, in the Third-Round replay recorded a 1 in 1,800 probability and therefore deservedly ranked.

In what was their centenary season, the Hawks were among the elite of non-League football and had to get past Lowestoft, Hornchurch, Bury Town, and Harwich & Parkeston in the early qualifying rounds.

Harlow then had the ‘underdog’ tag placed on them for the first time in the Fourth-Qualifying-Round but showed early signs of their giant killing prowess by getting the better of Alliance Premier League side Margate Town 1-0 thanks to Peter Adams’ goal.

The First-Round draw was met with a somewhat disappointing tie against Leytonstone & Ilford, the leaders of the Isthmian League Second Division, but it did mean they could progress to the Second-Round with a 2-1 victory.

An all-Essex meeting came next as Southend United, who had been comfortably in the third and fourth division’s for the past decade, was drawn against the Hawks.

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Harlow looked to be out as they trailed at half-time, but Neil Prosser levelled in the second-half to force a replay back at the Harlow Sports Centre where the hosts came out 1-0 victors.

Next came the famous Third-Round clash against Leicester City.

Going into the New Year, the Foxes had restored their winning ways after having a small dip in form in December and, subsequently, were strong favourites heading into the Harlow encounter.

Understandably, Harlow were on the back foot early on with Leicester’s Martin Henderson scoring following a shot from close range. But, write Harlow off at your peril as a few moments later Neil Prosser popped up in the second-half to equalise and force a replay.

The scene was set: January 8, 1980, 10,000 supporters on the grassy embankments and temporary stands, waiting in anticipation.



10,000 supporters packed themselves on the grassy embankments and temporary stands
10,000 supporters packed themselves on the grassy embankments and temporary stands

Featuring for the travelling Leicester side was a young Gary Lineker who was actually ill, but too terrified to speak up, so was rather non-existent in this match.

A largely disjointed first-half was ended three minutes before the interval when Micky Mann’s free-kick fell to John MacKenzie in the penalty area. Foxes goalkeeper Mark Wallington tried to get his hand on it, but it was to no avail as the shot crossed the line for the only goal of the match.

Cue delirium.

Despite being knocked out in the following round by Watford in a spirited 4-3 defeat, MacKenzie’s goal will live long in the memory of everyone associated with the club.

For more details about the Emirates FA Cup visit TheFA.com.

What memories do you have of this momentous occasion for Harlow Town?

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