One of the first rules of true loyalty as a football fan is not turning up at the stadium after the match has already kicked off. By the same token, an equally stringent rule applies to the end of the match: never leave your seat before the final whistle has blown.

However, for anyone tempted to sneak out before the 90 minutes are up, takes you through some of the greatest and most dramatic comebacks in the history of the beautiful game.

England in particular prides itself on its footballers' fighting spirit. An early example of the never-say-die British spirit came at the beginning of the 20th century, in the 1904/05 season, to be precise. Everton found themselves with a 5-0 deficit at half-time away to title-holders Sheffield Wednesday only for the Toffees mounted an incredible comeback after the break to snatch a point with a 5-5 draw. This also saw the Owls go down in history, as the South Yorkshiremen became the first team ever to fail to win after being 5-0 up. It is, in fact, a record which still stands today, though you will not hear many Wednesday fans boasting about it.
More recently, the other Merseyside club, Liverpool, confirmed that breaking opposition hearts is obviously a local speciality in the north-west of England. The Reds showed their battling qualities on the biggest of club stages, namely the UEFA Champions League final of 2005. AC Milan went in at half-time three goals to the good, thanks to a strike from Paolo Maldini and a brace from Hernan Crespo, and a rout looked to be on the cards.

Captain Steven Gerrard had other ideas, however. The talismanic midfielder scored to bring Liverpool back into the game, and following further goals from Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso, the match went to penalties. It was at that stage in proeceedings that Polish keeper Jerzy Dudek became an Anfield hero, saving Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenko's efforts and securing the most prestigious of European club trophies for the Anfield outfit.

One of Liverpool's near-neighbours had already written their name in the UEFA Champions League annals a few years previously. Manchester United found themselves staring defeat in the face in the 1999 final, 1-0 down to Bayern Munich with the clock already showing 90 minutes. In time added on, however, old warhorse Teddy Sheringham equalised for the Red Devils from a corner. The Germans were heartbroken, but began to steel themselves for extra time and another crack at their fourth European title. How wrong they were.

The equaliser was followed a minute later by the winner, with Norwegian striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who had only come on as a substitute ten minutes earlier, converting another corner and sending the trophy on its way to Manchester. Samuel Kuffour and Oliver Kahn could not hold back the tears at the time, but little did they know that it would be their turn two years later. 

Comeback kings
Ironically, Bayern Munich had already suffered a similar fate on the domestic front. During the 1973/74 season, with Franz Beckenbauer as their captain, the German powerhouses lead 4-1 away at FC Kaiserslautern, only to end up on the wrong end of a 7-4 scoreline. It has not been all doom and gloom for the Bavarians, however - 2-0 down at half-time to Nuremberg in the 1982 German Cup final, Bayern came back to lift the trophy after notching four second half goals.

Be it on the domestic or the international front, Germany have always enjoyed a challenge - and come out on top more often than not. "Football is a simple game - 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win," was the rueful view of England's Gary Lineker after his side's defeat in the semi-finals of the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™. 

It has certainly often seemed that way, and Lineker might have cited the evidence of the 1954 tournament in Switzerland to back up his argument. Hungary were unbeaten in 31 matches and red-hot favourites in the final, particularly when Sepp Herberger's West German team went 2-0 down early on. The Germans fought back, however, and in what became known as the 'Miracle of Bern', Helmut Rahn scored the winner five minutes from time to give Germany their first ever FIFA World Cup win.

Another miracle took place in the final of the UEFA Euro 2000 in Rotterdam, though on this occasion it was France who were left praising the heaves. With their team 1-0 to the good and 93 minutes on the clock, the Italian fans had already been popping the champagne corks. Then up popped Sylvain Wiltord to equalise for France with the last kick of regulation time in the 94th minute, and David Trezeguet followed this up with a golden goal to give Les Bleus their second European success.

Four years later, France picked up where they had left off. In their opening UEFA Euro 2004 tie against England, Zinedine Zidane and his men found themselves 1-0 down after a Frank Lampard strike in the 39th minute. Zizou was to come up trumps in the dying seconds, however, scoring from a free-kick in the 91st minute and from the penalty spot two minutes later to break English hearts.

The recently retired Zidane hails from Marseilles, and his home-town club pulled off a remarkable turnaround during the 1998/99 season. With FIFA World Cup winners Christophe Dugarry, Robert Pires and Laurent Blanc in their ranks, Olympique Marseille nevertheless let in four first-half goals at home to Montpellier, much to the chagrin of their massed ranks of fans. However, after the break the jeers were replaced by cheers as the home team levelled matters at 4-4, and when Blanc notched the winner in time added on, the Stade Velodrome went into raptures. 

Sickeners for Celtic, Schalke
Down in Argentina, the high-point of every season is the superclasico between the country's two most successful clubs, Boca Juniors and River Plate. This Buenos Aires derby match is always a passionate affair, and in 1991, when the clubs met in the first round of the Copa Libertadores, the River Millonarios thought that they were home and dry with 30 minutes to go and a 3-1 lead in the bag. The Boca Xeneizes were having none of it, though, and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a winner three minutes from time.

Six years later, the boot was on the other foot. Boca were coasting, 3-0 to the good in River's Monumental stadium with a chance to make it four. River keeper Roberto Bonano saved Roberto Pompei's penalty, however, and the home team got right back into it to steal a point, the game ending 3-3.

Another legendary derby is  Glasgow's Old Firm . On the last day of the 2004/05 season, Rangers and Celtic were neck and neck, with  Martin O'Neill's  Bhoys masters of their own fate. A win away at Motherwell would see the title going to Celtic Park, and despite the fact that Rangers were beating Edinburgh club Hibernian, Chris Sutton's first half goal for Celtic ensured that everything seemed to be going according to plan. Until the 89th minute, that is.

A helicopter was already en route to Motherwell's Fir Park, in fact, when the home team's Australian forward Scott McDonald hooked a dramatic overhead kick into the top right-hand corner. The Bhoys threw everything into attack, but were caught on the break and duly conceded a second. And so the helicopter pilot was forced to change routes and make his way to Easter Road, Edinburgh, with ribbons on the glittering prize changed from green to blue.

Schalke 04 went through the same scenario in 2001. Having beaten Unterhaching, Schalke watched as Bayern Munich - who seem to be involved in every German cliff-hanger - were losing 1-0 to Hamburg. The 90 minutes were up, and the celebrations were almost about to begin on the streets of Gelsenkirchen. With mere seconds remaining, however, Bayern's Swedish international Patrick Andersson grabbed a dramatic equaliser from a free-kick, sending the title down south and giving Schalke the unenviable nickname of 'champions for five minutes'.

Five minutes is sometimes all it takes to change the course of a match. So what should you do when your team is seemingly down and out with a few minutes to go? Whatever you do, don't leave your seat! After all, as the saying goes, it ain't over 'til it's over…