Blackpool equalised through Charlie Adam, and even took the lead briefly
Blackpool's one-season stay in the top flight ended in defeat and a rollercoaster ride of emotions as Manchester United celebrated their record 19th title with victory at Old Trafford.
Boss Ian Holloway knew only three points would give Blackpool a realistic chance of survival amid the dramatic twists and turns of the final day of the campaign, as five clubs fought to secure Premier League status.
And when goals from Charlie Adam and Gary Taylor-Fletcher turned around an early deficit after Ji-Sung Park put United ahead, the Tangerines looked on course to navigate an unlikely path to survival at the home of the newly-crowned champions, who have lost only two points at home all season.
Sadly for Holloway, his players and the thousands of Blackpool supporters who travelled in hope of an escape, United ruthlessly punished the Seasiders in the closing stages, condemning them to relegation with West Ham United and Birmingham City.
Anderson's equaliser placed Blackpool under pressure they were unable to withstand, with Ian Evatt's own goal and Michael Owen's late strike setting the seal on a day that offered hope and finally heartbreak.
Ferguson pays tribute to 'brilliant' Man Utd
Blackpool's attacking approach has illuminated the Premier League but the defensive deficiencies that have haunted them were still in evidence as their brief stay in English football's top tier came to an end.
At the final whistle, as United prepared to be presented with the Premier League trophy that would confirm their coronation as English football's most successful domestic club, Old Trafford spared a thought for the gallant visitors as both Blackpool and Holloway were afforded a generous standing ovation.
Blackpool's journey has been characterised by an all-out attacking philosophy and Holloway stayed true to his principles to the end, but it was to no avail as they return to the Championship a year to the day after they won promotion.
It was a day of contrasting emotions as Blackpool found themselves out of the relegation places then back in as results around the Premier League fluctuated on so-called 'Survival Sunday'.
And there was no greater illustration of this than the scenes after the final whistle, as Blackpool's tearful and dejected players trooped towards their followers while Old Trafford exploded in joy as United collected the trophy and looked forward to Saturday's Champions League final against Barcelona at Wembley.
PHIL McNULTY BLOG
“Blackpool attacked until the last moments of their top-flight existence and went out on their shields with an Old Trafford standing ovation to accompany them”
Ferguson, who fielded a strong side despite leaving Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand on the bench, took the microphone to pay tribute to retiring goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar and Gary Neville, who quit earlier this season.
Blackpool's initial objective was victory - and they should have been ahead inside the first 30 seconds.
Adam pulled a cross back invitingly for the incoming Keith Southern, but he was gripped by indecision and pulled his effort well wide when a goal seemed certain.
Adam was confirming his status as Blackpool's main creative force and another swerving low cross, tantalisingly out of Van der Sar's reach, saw Taylor-Fletcher just fail to apply the crucial final touch.
Blackpool's positive intent was matched by defensive frailty and United almost took advantage twice early on, with Matt Gilks saving well from Rafael and, even more impressively, from Dimitar Berbatov.
There was no escape, however, in the 21st minute when Berbatov's pass released Park in the area.
Evatt was weak in the challenge with the South Korean, who escaped his attentions to lift his finish over the advancing Gilks.
The goal appeared to deflate Blackpool and Gilks was in action again on the half-hour when Berbatov profited from more uncertainty.
The Bulgarian swooped on the loose ball but Blackpool's keeper was able to make a crucial block with his legs.
Holloway proud despite 'cruel' drop
Just as it looked like all Holloway's motivational powers would be required at the interval, Adam provided the sort of inspirational moment that has been a trademark of Blackpool's season to open up the possibility of survival.
Referee Mike Dean punished Nemanja Vidic for a foul on Taylor-Fletcher and the Scot curled a superb left-foot free-kick past Van der Sar and in off the upright.
Adam demonstrated his quality from set pieces again after 48 minutes when he forced Van der Sar to punch away another free-kick - but another moment of sheer elation was not far away from the Seasiders.
Vaughan found space on the right side of United's area before setting up Taylor-Fletcher, whose glancing effort teased the thousands of Blackpool fans behind the goal before bouncing off the post and into the net.
The celebrations were short-lived as United were swiftly back on terms when Park's cross was swept high past Gilks by Anderson - immediately prompting Ferguson to send Owen into the action.
Blackpool were on the back foot after United stepped up the pressure, with Gilks saving acrobatically from Berbatov and Nani somehow heading Chris Smalling's cross wide with the goal at his mercy.
Holloway's side were living on the edge and tumbled over the precipice in the cruellest fashion possible with 16 minutes left as Evatt, a stalwart of their season, could only divert Smalling's cross into his own net.
As the inevitability of their fate dawned on them, Blackpool became ragged and Owen showed some of the old expertise in front of goal when he raced through from Anderson's pass and beat Gilks with ease to wrap up United's victory and condemn Holloway and his players to the drop.
Even as they suffered in the final moments of this Premier League season Blackpool refused to go quietly, with Van der Sar saving from Adam and Luke Varney hitting the bar with a header.
Old Trafford delivered a heartfelt tribute to Blackpool as they made their way off - but there was no consolation to be found on a day of bitter disappointment.
Inswinging corner taken by Brett Ormerod. Short corner taken by Brett Ormerod from the left by-line. Headed effort from deep inside the penalty area by Luke Varney goes harmlessly over the crossbar.
Charlie Adam takes a shot. Save by Edwin Van der Sar.
Effort on goal by Dimitar Berbatov from inside the penalty area goes harmlessly over the bar.
Effort from inside the area by Michael Owen misses to the left of the target.
Matt Phillips takes a shot. Blocked by Patrice Evra. Matt Phillips takes a shot from just outside the penalty area which clears the crossbar.
The ball is swung over by Matt Phillips, Shot by Brett Ormerod from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the target.
Substitution Brett Ormerod on for Keith Southern.
Shot from deep inside the area by Dimitar Berbatov clears the crossbar.
Unfair challenge on Keith Southern by Darren Fletcher results in a free kick. Charlie Adam takes the free kick. Matt Phillips takes a shot. Blocked by Jonathan Evans.
Substitution Nemanja Vidic leaves the field to be replaced by Wayne Rooney.
Centre by Neal Eardley.
The assist for the goal came from Oliveira Anderson.
80:32 Goal scored
Goal - Michael Owen - Man Utd 4 - 2 Blackpool Michael Owen gets on the score sheet with a goal from the edge of the area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Man Utd 4-2 Blackpool.
Outswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Charlie Adam, Ian Evatt challenges Edwin Van der Sar unfairly and gives away a free kick. Edwin Van der Sar takes the free kick.
Direct free kick taken by Chris Smalling.
Booking The referee books David Vaughan for unsporting behaviour.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Chris Smalling by David Vaughan.
Substitution Jason Puncheon goes off and Matt Phillips comes on.
Substitution Luke Varney joins the action as a substitute, replacing Gary Taylor-Fletcher.
Assist on the goal came from Chris Smalling.
73:49 Goal scored
Goal - Ian Evatt - Man Utd 3 - 2 Blackpool Ian Evatt puts the ball into his own goal. Man Utd 3-2 Blackpool.
The ball is sent over by Chris Smalling, Luis Nani has a headed effort at goal from close in which goes wide right of the target.
Free kick awarded for a foul by David Vaughan on Luis Nani. The ball is sent over by Luis Nani, Paul Scholes takes a shot. Blocked by Keith Southern. Nemanja Vidic takes a shot. Clearance made by Alex Baptiste.
Free kick taken by Matthew Gilks.
Booking Michael Owen receives a yellow card.
Charlie Adam fouled by Michael Owen, the ref awards a free kick.
Luis Nani crosses the ball, Neal Eardley gets a block in. Corner taken short by Luis Nani.
Charlie Adam produces a left-footed shot from just outside the area that goes harmlessly over the bar.
Patrice Evra delivers the ball, Matthew Gilks makes a save. Dimitar Berbatov takes a shot. Save by Matthew Gilks. Paul Scholes takes a shot. Blocked by Ian Evatt.
Substitution Michael Owen replaces Ji-Sung Park.
Ji-Sung Park provided the assist for the goal.
61:59 Goal scored
Goal - Oliveira Anderson - Man Utd 2 - 2 Blackpool Oliveira Anderson gets on the score sheet with a goal from inside the box to the top right corner of the goal. Man Utd 2-2 Blackpool.
Chris Smalling sends in a cross, clearance by Neal Eardley.
The ball is crossed by Ji-Sung Park.
David Vaughan produces a cross,
The assist for the goal came from David Vaughan.
56:08 Goal scored
Goal - Gary Taylor-Fletcher - Man Utd 1 - 2 Blackpool Gary Taylor-Fletcher finds the net with a goal from close in to the bottom left corner of the goal. Man Utd 1-2 Blackpool.
Corner taken right-footed by Luis Nani, Close range headed effort by Dimitar Berbatov clears the crossbar.
Centre by Neal Eardley, Chris Smalling makes a clearance.
Corner taken by Charlie Adam from the right by-line played to the near post.
Inswinging corner taken by Charlie Adam from the right by-line played to the near post, Nemanja Vidic makes a clearance. Charlie Adam takes a inswinging corner to the near post, Nemanja Vidic makes a clearance.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Nemanja Vidic on Dudley Campbell. Charlie Adam produces a shot on goal direct from the free kick, save by Edwin Van der Sar.
Dimitar Berbatov is caught offside. Indirect free kick taken by Matthew Gilks.
The game restarts for the second half.
Substitution Chris Smalling joins the action as a substitute, replacing Rafael Da Silva.
45:00 +2:04 Half time
Half Time The half-time whistle blows.
The referee blows for offside against Stephen Crainey. Edwin Van der Sar takes the free kick.
39:49 Goal scored
Goal - Charlie Adam - Man Utd 1 - 1 Blackpool Charlie Adam finds the net with a goal direct from the free kick from just outside the box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Man Utd 1-1 Blackpool.
Unfair challenge on Gary Taylor-Fletcher by Nemanja Vidic results in a free kick.
Rafael Da Silva fouled by Gary Taylor-Fletcher, the ref awards a free kick. Jonathan Evans restarts play with the free kick.
The referee blows for offside. Matthew Gilks restarts play with the free kick.
Corner taken right-footed by Luis Nani to the near post, Shot from just outside the penalty area by Oliveira Anderson misses to the left of the target.
Neal Eardley takes the direct free kick.
Booking Darren Fletcher receives a yellow card.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Keith Southern by Darren Fletcher.
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Oliveira Anderson from the right by-line, Dimitar Berbatov has a headed effort at goal from close in which goes wide left of the goal.
Luis Nani concedes a free kick for a foul on David Vaughan. Direct free kick taken by Charlie Adam.
Dimitar Berbatov takes a shot. Save by Matthew Gilks.
Shot from long range by Charlie Adam goes over the bar.
Foul by Paul Scholes on David Vaughan, free kick awarded. Matthew Gilks restarts play with the free kick.
Luis Nani takes a inswinging corner from the left by-line played to the near post. Luis Nani takes a inswinging corner to the near post, Charlie Adam makes a clearance.
Luis Nani takes the inswinging corner, Corner taken by Luis Nani played to the near post. Charlie Adam manages to make a clearance.
Centre by Luis Nani, Neal Eardley manages to make a clearance.
Ji-Sung Park sends in a cross, clearance made by Stephen Crainey.
David Vaughan fouled by Luis Nani, the ref awards a free kick. Charlie Adam produces a shot on goal direct from the free kick.
Corner taken left-footed by Charlie Adam to the near post, clearance made by Jonathan Evans.
Dudley Campbell takes a shot. Paul Scholes gets a block in.
Assist by Dimitar Berbatov.
20:15 Goal scored
Goal - Ji-Sung Park - Man Utd 1 - 0 Blackpool Ji-Sung Park finds the net with a goal from close in to the bottom right corner of the goal. Man Utd 1-0 Blackpool.
Unfair challenge on Dimitar Berbatov by Ian Evatt results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Edwin Van der Sar.
Luis Nani concedes a free kick for a foul on David Vaughan. Direct free kick taken by Charlie Adam.
Centre by Luis Nani, Gary Taylor-Fletcher manages to make a clearance.
Luis Nani takes a short corner.
The ball is delivered by Patrice Evra, save made by Matthew Gilks.
Ji-Sung Park takes a shot. Blocked by Charlie Adam.
Oliveira Anderson decides to take the corner short.
Dimitar Berbatov takes a shot. Matthew Gilks makes a save.
Centre by Patrice Evra, clearance made by Alex Baptiste.
Centre by Stephen Crainey, blocked by Jonathan Evans. Outswinging corner taken by Charlie Adam from the left by-line, Nemanja Vidic manages to make a clearance.
Rafael Da Silva takes a shot. Matthew Gilks makes a comfortable save.
Charlie Adam crosses the ball, Effort from deep inside the area by Keith Southern misses to the left of the goal.
The ref blows the whistle to start the match.
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