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Page last updated at 17:41 GMT, Tuesday, 20 May 2008 18:41 UK

SPL title battle hangs in balance

By David McDaid

A titanic Scottish Premier League season draws to a conclusion on Thursday night.

A helicopter will be on standby to deliver the championship trophy to Celtic, who face Dundee United at Tannadice, or Rangers, who take on Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

MY SPORT: DEBATE

It is the third time in five seasons that the title will be decided on the final day of the SPL, Celtic starting the latest tense finale with a superior goal difference.

BBC Sport looks back at some last-day drama from yesteryear.

3 May 1986 - ST MIRREN 0-5 CELTIC

Hearts went to Dens Park as favourites to become league champions for the first time since 1960.

With a two-point lead over Celtic in the days when a victory was worth two points, the Edinburgh side needed only to avoid defeat against mid-table Dundee.

Albert Kidd nets for Dundee at Dens Park
Albert Kidd destroys Hearts' title dreams at Dens Park
Celtic, meanwhile, needed to win by three clear goals against St Mirren and hope Hearts lost.

By half-time at a rain-drenched St Mirren Park, Celtic were 4-0 up, although Hearts' 0-0 scoreline on Tayside meant the goals counted for nothing.

Brian McClair added a fifth for Celtic before an Albert Kidd double in the last 10 minutes for Dundee stunned the Tynecastle club and sent Celtic into raptures.

They won the league title by three goals.

11 May 1991 - RANGERS 2-0 ABERDEEN

The classic title decider. Alex Smith took his Aberdeen side to Ibrox needing a draw to pip Rangers to the championship.

Mark Hateley celebrates at Ibrox
Hateley's double ripped the title from Aberdeen's grasp
Rangers had seemed poised to collect their third successive title, but manager Graeme Souness left for Liverpool the month before, precipitating a stumble in the season run-in.

The Dons had trailed by seven points with 10 games to go, but a fine run of form had them on top of the table on goal difference at kick-off on a warm afternoon in Glasgow.

However, English striker Mark Hateley wrote himself into Rangers folklore with a brace to give new manager Walter Smith his first league trophy.

9 May 1998 - CELTIC 2-0 ST JOHNSTONE

Henrik Larsson and Harald Brattbakk celebrate at Celtic Park
Celtic ended Rangers domination against St Johnstone
Walter Smith's Rangers had dominated Scottish football and were gunning for a record-breaking tenth title in-a-row.

Dutchman Wim Jansen had taken the helm at Celtic that season and guided a new-look team to a two-point advantage over their Glasgow rivals.

The Light Blues needed Celtic to slip up at home to St Johnstone, while themselves beating Dundee United at Tannadice.

The Ibrox side did their bit with a 2-1 win over the Tangerines, but Henrik Larsson and Harald Brattbakk were the scorers for Celtic as they sealed a crucial title for the club and its fans.

Celtic were champions by two points.

25 May 2003 - RANGERS 6-1 DUNFERMLINE

Four days before the league finale, Celtic had missed out on the Uefa Cup to Porto in Seville.

Martin O'Neill's squad had a slim advantage over Rangers and rattled in four goals without reply at Rugby Park against a usually stuffy Kilmarnock side.

However, in one of the most dramatic ends to a season ever, at Ibrox Rangers had taken the initiative on goals scored with a 5-1 scoreline against Dunfermline.

Rangers skipper Barry Ferguson
Rangers lifted the trophy by virtue of a single goal in 2003
Neil McCann was then fouled in the box in the final minute, allowing Mikel Arteta to step up and slot the ball home from the penalty spot.

The Spaniard's goal assured the league title for Rangers by the margin of a single goal.

In an afternoon of extreme emotions, Celtic striker Chris Sutton accused Jimmy Calderwood's Dunfermline of 'rolling over' to their Glasgow rivals.

22 May 2005 - HIBERNIAN 0-1 RANGERS

Rangers' 4-1 humbling of Motherwell the week before pointed to a formality for Celtic on the last day at Fir Park.

Motherwell had nothing to play for in mid-table and Celtic had a two-point lead at the top of the league.

Alex McLeish's men, meanwhile, faced the tough prospect of a trip to third-placed Hibernian.

Celtic looked to be cruising when Chris Sutton scored after 29 minutes.

Rangers defender Marvin Andrews
Marvin Andrews revels in Rangers' dramatic victory
And, even when Nacho Novo put Rangers in front in Edinburgh, it appeared too little too late.

But Celtic's top scorer this season was their executioner on that day.

Scott McDonald struck twice for Motherwell in the last three minutes to dump Martin O'Neill's side in the Northern Irishman's last game at the club.

Rangers held on to win at Easter Road and take the SPL title by one point.


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