The best North London derbies of all time

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Arsenal and Tottenham enjoy one of the fiercest, most contested and entertaining rivalries in the top flight, and the North London derby is a highlight on any Premier League match roster.

The pair have gone head-to-head more than 200 times since their first meeting in 1896, launching a selection of classic match-ups that vary in degrees of enjoyment depending on your fan base.

Here, 90min dives into the archives to catch a glimpse of the best of recent years.

As all-time classics where neutral couldn’t look away, we didn’t start with a classic, it’s true.

But in terms of importance, few North London derbies improve on this crucial final day of the season’s clash.

Arsenal traveled to Spurs knowing that a win or a goalless draw would seal the Division One title for the first time in 18 years, but a loss or a draw would mark the way to Leeds.

An exciting encounter followed, and with the match still scoreless after 88 minutes, Ray Kennedy appeared to take home the winner and claim the league title in the backyard of his rivals. A pretty bleak experience for Spurs fans and one they wouldn’t want to see repeated. More on that later.

With the League Cup penalty shootout still a futuristic concept in 1987, Arsenal had forced third leg of their semifinal clash after coming back 2-0 on aggregate to draw 2-2.

Spurs led once again in the third leg thanks to a goal from Clive Allen just after the hour, but Arsenal left him late to organize another comeback.

Substitute Ian Allinson tied the score with eight minutes remaining, before his deflected effort fell in the way of David Rocastle, who scored a goal in the 90th minute to send the Gunners into the final.

Paul Gascoigne of Tottenham Hotspur
Gazza Scored Iconic Free Kick In 1991 FA Cup Semifinal | Simon Bruty / Getty Images

The 1991 FA Cup semi-final is famous for one of the competition’s all-time great goals, courtesy of Paul Gascoigne.

The eccentric midfielder had undergone hernia surgery the previous month, but the game was only five minutes long when he landed an impressive 30-yard free kick into David Seaman’s upper left corner.

Gary Lineker took a double to send the Spurs to the final, and they would continue to lift the famous trophy with the victory over Nottingham Forest.

Robbie Keane of Tottenham celebrates
Robbie Keane Scored When Spurs Dismantled Arsenal | CARL DE SOUZA / Getty Images

Both north London teams were in the midst of a silver drought when Arsenal traveled to White Hart Lane for the second leg of the League Cup semi-final in 2008.

A 1-1 draw at the Emirates a fortnight earlier left the tie tantalizingly primed, but Spurs made an electric performance to reach the final at the expense of Arsenal’s fringe XI.

It was only the second time the Spurs had beaten Arsenal since the arrival of Arsene Wenger in 1996, Jermaine Jenas played out of his skin and Nicklas Bendtner scored an all-time header from an own goal. You can’t ask for much more from a derby, right?

Tottenham Hotspurs fans react like Dutch
Spurs completed a magnificent comeback in 2011 | ADRIAN DENNIS / Getty Images

Arsenal were firmly in the race for the Premier League title when they visited White Hart Lane with six games remaining from the 2010/11 season, but squandered a two-goal lead as Spurs stepped up their bid for a place in the League. Champions.

Theo Walcott saw his early goal disallowed by Rafael van der Vaart, before goals from Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie gave the Gunners a two-goal lead before the break.

But Tom Huddlestone scored at the edge of half and Van der Vaart tied from the penalty spot in the second period, sharing the spoils in 90 minutes.

Younes Kaboul, Jermaine Jenas and Gareth Bale
Tottenham posted a famous comeback | Mike Hewitt / Getty Images

The 2010/11 season featured two impressive North London derbies, as Spurs staged their first of two notable comebacks to record their maiden Emirates victory.

Arsenal were comfortably the best team in the first 45 and opened a 2-0 lead at halftime thanks to goals from Nasri and Marouane Chamakh.

But the Spurs shot out in the second period and a brilliant finish from Gareth Bale and a kick from Van der Vaart saw them tie with 23 minutes to go after a rare hand from Cesc Fabregas. Younes Kaboul completed the comeback with five minutes remaining when he directed home a free kick from Van der Vaart.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal
Arsenal claimed the title at Tottenham for the second time | Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

Remember when we mentioned winning the league title at your rivals’ home? Probably a once in a lifetime, once in a lifetime occasion, right?

Unbeaten Arsenal needed a draw to be crowned Premier League champions when they traveled to White Hart Lane in April 2004, and the Gunners built a two-goal lead thanks to Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires.

However, the Spurs fought back, with Jamie Redknapp in goal before Robbie Keane scored a late draw from the point. But they left it too late to find a third in an attempt to become the first team to inflict a league defeat on their rivals. Arsenal were crowned Premier League champions and would finish the season undefeated.

Alan Smith of Arsenal and Gary Mabbutt of Tottenham Hotspur
Arsenal were left with a 3-2 victory in 1988 | Simon Bruty / Getty Images

The 1988 North London derby served five goals in the space of 12 minutes of the first half out of breath. Imagine if you had gone to the bathroom and stood in line.

Chris Waddle quickly ruled out Nigel Winterburn’s opener, before goals from Brian Marwood and Alan Smith led Arsenal to open a two-goal lead.

Then Gazza opened his Spurs account, losing his right boot in a challenge at the edge of the box as he ran towards goal and passed John Lukic in the second questioning moment with his flexible white right sock.

Robert Pires
Pires hit the winner in 2004 | Ian Walton / Getty Images

Tottenham’s 2003/04 Premier League clash with Arsenal was a modest 1-1 at halftime.

Thierry Henry had disallowed Noureddine Naybet’s volley in injury time in the first half, before a chaotic 45 minutes followed.

Lauren and Patrick Vieira led the Gunners 3-1 in the hour, Jermain Defoe halved the deficit a minute later, before Freddie Ljungberg regained the two-goal lead. A header from Ledley King put the Spurs back in the fight with 16 minutes to go, then Robert Pires scored Arsenal’s fifth, before Freddie Kanoute made it 5-4 in the 88th minute.

Seven goals in 33 pulsating minutes of the second half. And not even good enough for first place.

David Bentley and Jonathan Woodgate
Bentley opened the scoring with a worldie | Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

Opportunely, Cold and heat by Katy Perry entered the top 10 of the UK charts in the same week that Arsenal and Tottenham played one of the most chaotic, unpredictable and glorious matches in Premier League history. Up then down, Katy.

Tottenham had led through David Bentley’s iconic long-range volley, before Mikael Silvestre headed home with Arsenal’s draw.

William Gallas gave Arsenal the lead in the first two minutes of the second half, before Emmanuel Adebayor, Darren Bent and Robin van Persie found the net within six minutes.

Arsenal’s 4-2 lead remained intact until the 89th minute, when Jenas scored a fabulous goal, and Aaron Lennon scored a goal in the fourth minute of injury time to dramatically salvage an unlikely point.

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