Though it remains the longest-standing clássico between two of Sao Paulo state’s footballing giants, the rivalry between Santos and Corinthians has not always been as fierce as it is today. Yet the regular meetings between the sides, their shared footballing history and the events of the glorious ‘Pele Era’ at O Peixe, have certainly changed all that.

On the day of the latest Brasileirao meeting between the duo, takes a look back at some of the key moments and biggest names in the tale of this classic clash.

When Sport Club Corinthians Paulista and Santos Futebol Clube met for the first time on 6 March 1913 at Campo do Parque Antarctica, a game the latter won 6-3, neither could have imagined they were starting something that would evolve into one of Brazil’s biggest clássicos. Not even hailing from the same city, the teams both ended up settling on white and black for their chosen kit colours, after Santos decided to give up their original white, blue and gold outfits shortly after this opening derby.

Although O Timão racked up eight Paulista championship titles before Santos claimed their first by beating Corinthians in the state final in 1935, the clubs’ first 32 meetings up to that date ended in 14 wins for Corinthians, 13 for O Peixe and five draws.

Facts and figures
Santos may have been the less successful club in their early years, but they proved a thorn in O Timão’s side by going unbeaten in the teams’ first six derbies.

It was not until 1919 that Corinthians recorded their first win, and their emphatic 5-0 success was the start of a seven-game unbeaten streak for the team from the state capital. This continued until 1924 and featured an 11-0 away win at Santos’ Vila Belmiro stadium in 1920, the heaviest victory in the history of this derby.

Overall, prior to this Wednesday’s meeting in the 2011 Brasileirao, there have been 298 meetings between the teams. Corinthians currently enjoy a healthy lead thanks to their 122 wins to Santos’ 94, with a further 82 matches ending level.

Tales of derbies past
The decade the Santos-Corinthians clássico really caught fire was the 1950s. It is no coincidence that it was during this period that Os Santistas began assembling one of the greatest sides of all time – featuring a youngster signed from Bauru Atletico Clube by the name of Pele.

The immense talent and incredible eye for goal of O Rei Pele would leave an indelible mark on the Santos-Corinthians clash, with the Brazilian legend scoring no fewer than 50 times in just 48 matches against O Timão. What is more, Pele and Co went on a 22-match unbeaten run against Os Corintianos in the Paulista state championship - at the time of the utmost importance to both clubs.

That run began on 29 December 1956 and stretched through to 13 March 1968, when a Rivelino-inspired Corinthians finally put one over O Peixe in a richly-celebrated 2-0 success. The scorers that day were Flavio and Paulo Borges, who thus earned the eternal gratitude of the Corinthians’ faithful.

Yet while Santos continued to win trophies galore, silverware eluded the occupants of the Parque Sao Jorge. It is rumoured that Pele himself, after being on the receiving end of a violent tackle from Corinthians’ defender Ari Clemente in a pre-1958 FIFA World Cup™ friendly with Brazil, swore that O Timão would never win a trophy while he was still playing. And while it was only a myth, the fact remains that Os Corintianos only ended their title drought, which had begun back in 1954, in October 1977 – just 12 days after Pele officially hung up his boots in the United States.

After the ‘Pele Era’ had drawn to a close, Santos understandably struggled to fill the gap. While their fierce rivals were rebuilding, Corinthians took advantage to enjoy a run of seven years, between 1976 and 1983, without tasting defeat against Os Santistas. It was the latter’s turn to endure a barren spell of their own, which only came to end in the 1984 Paulista championship, a triumph secured by Serginho Chulapa’s solitary strike in a 1-0 victory over, who else, Corinthians.

During the '90s, in symbolical terms at least, Corinthians were able to give Pele a taste of his own medicine. The landmark moment came at Santos’ Vila Belmiro home on 1 February 1996 via a stunning strike from Marcelinho Carioca. Latching onto a pass just outside the box, the attacking midfielder flicked the ball first-time over the central defender’s head with his heel before sending a sublime side-footed volley into the corner of Edinho’s net. The Edinho in question was none other than Edson Cholbi do Nascimento, son of Pele, who later presented Marcelinho with a commemorative plaque in recognition of his wonder goal in the 2-2 draw.

Another iconic clash was the first Santos-Corinthians clássico to directly decide the victors of the Brazilian national championship. In the 2002 edition of the competition, Santos’ young side only just scraped through to the knockout phase of the competition, where they went from strength to strength thanks to the skill and verve of exceptional starlets Diego and Robinho.

For many observers the second leg of that year’s final marked Robinho’s coming of age. The defining moment came late in the opening period, with the scores level but Santos 2-0 up from the first leg. After a seemingly never-ending series of his trademark stepovers, Robinho forced Corinthians’ midfielder Rogerio back into his box. There he gave away a penalty which the gifted forward put away himself to kick-start a 3-2 win for O Peixe – sealing a 5-2 aggregate success and Robinho's first trophy in the pro game.

The rivalry today
Recent years have seen the teams’ rivalry ratchet up another notch thanks to two title-deciding encounters within a short space of time. The first of these was the crowning moment of Ronaldo’s time at O Timão and came in the deciding game of the 2009 Paulista state championship at the Vila Belmiro. O Fenômeno struck his side’s second and third goals in the 3-1 success, with the player himself rating the delightful left-foot lob that completed his brace as one of the finest of his career.

The second of these came in 2011, also in the Paulista state championship. After a 0-0 draw in the first leg of the final in May, Santos’ young striking sensation Neymar continued to forge his reputation as a future world superstar by guiding O Peixe to a 2-1 second-leg victory and the state title.