The 1998 FA Cup Final was the final match of the 1997–98 staging of English football's primary cup competition, the Football Association Challenge Cup, better known as the FA Cup. The match was contested between Arsenal and Newcastle United at the original Wembley Stadium in London on Saturday 16 May 1998. Six-time winners Arsenal were appearing in their thirteenth final, whereas Newcastle United, having also won the competition six times, appeared in their eleventh final. It was the third time both teams faced each other in a FA Cup final; Newcastle won the previous two encounters in 1932 and 1952.
Each team had progressed through five rounds to reach the final. Arsenal's victories were close affairs and the team required three replays, two of which ending in penalty shootouts. Newcastle's progress was more comfortable by comparison and needed only one replay in the fourth round, against Stevenage Borough. Arsenal entered the match as favourites; a fortnight prior the club won the Premier League and aimed to complete the club's second league and cup double.
Watched by a crowd of 79,183 and a television audience of more than seven million, Arsenal took a first half lead through Marc Overmars. A goal after the interval, scored by striker Nicolas Anelka gave Arsenal a 2–0 victory.
Arsenal entered the competition in the third round, receiving a bye as a Premier League club. Their opening match was a goalless draw against First Division club Port Vale at home, which meant the game was replayed at Vale Park, eleven days later. In the replay, Arsenal won 4–3 on a penalty shoot-out, with the match ending 1–1 after normal and extra time. In the fourth round, Arsenal played Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium. Marc Overmars scored the opening goal inside 68 seconds for the visitors and Ray Parlour added a second to give Arsenal a commanding lead, going into the interval. Although Paul Merson scored in the second half for Middlesbrough, Arsenal did enough to progress into the fifth round.
A 0–0 draw at home against Crystal Palace meant Arsenal needed to play a fifth round replay at Selhurst Park on 25 February 1998. Goals from Nicolas Anelka and Dennis Bergkamp ensured victory for an understrength Arsenal team. Against West Ham United in the quarter-finals, Arsenal conceded the first goal when Frank Lampard's corner kick was converted into the goal net by Ian Pearce. Although Bergkamp scored a penalty to equalise, Arsenal had to settle for a replay, staged at Upton Park, where it ended 4–3 on penalties in their favour after another draw. A goal by Christopher Wreh against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the semi-final was enough for Arsenal to win the match and reach the final.
Newcastle's FA Cup campaign began in the third round against fellow league side Everton. The only goal of the match came in the second half; John Beresford's right-wing cross beat the Everton defence and allowed John Barnes to hook the ball back from beyond the far post. Ian Rush forced the ball over the goal line, it was his 43rd goal in the competition – a new record. Newcastle were drawn away against non-league Stevenage Borough in the fourth round. Alan Shearer on his return scored inside the first three minutes; he headed the ball into the net after good play from Keith Gillespie. However, Giuliano Grazioli equalised for the home side, who held on for a replay at St James' Park.
Shearer scored both goals against Stevenage Borough and manager Kenny Dalglish spoke afterwards of the disrespect Stevenage had shown his team: "Off the pitch they have a lot to learn about manners. If they were a Premier League club they would probably have been done for bringing the game into disrepute." A 1–0 win in the fifth round at home to Tranmere Rovers was followed by a quarter-final draw against Barnsley, who had knocked out Manchester United. Newcastle advanced to the semi-finals after a 3–1 win and at Old Trafford, Shearer scored the winner against Sheffield United.
The 1998 FA Cup Final was Arsenal's chance to win the League and FA Cup double for the second time in their history, since their first such achievement in 1971. It was manager, Arsène Wenger's first Cup Final at Arsenal. It was a hot sunny day at Wembley and their opponents Newcastle United, were underdogs, having finished in 13th place that season under Kenny Dalglish. It was the club's first FA Cup Final since 1974.
The game came to life in the 23rd minute, when a perfect through-ball by Emmanuel Petit found Marc Overmars, who resisted the challenge of defender Alessandro Pistone to prod the ball through the legs of the onrushing goalkeeper Shay Given and give Arsenal a 1–0 lead.
Early in the second half, Newcastle were given a great chance to equalise when Martin Keown slipped on the ball. Alan Shearer pounced on the opportunity but his left-foot shot hit the foot of the post, and rebounded back out. The contest was all over in the 69th minute when another great pass by man of the match Parlour found the teenage striker Nicolas Anelka. Anelka raced through and slid the ball past Given to give the Gunners a 2–0 lead. Newcastle were left to rue another missed chance when Nikos Dabizas hit the bar with a header, but it was to be Arsenal's day. Sportingly, the Newcastle fans applauded the Arsenal team as they made their way up the Wembley steps to collect the trophy.
Arsenal's victory set up a Charity Shield match against Manchester United in August 1998, who finished second in the league. The FA Cup winners ordinarily are awarded a place in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, but as Arsenal qualified for the UEFA Champions League via their league position, their UEFA Cup Winners' Cup place was passed to finalists Newcastle United.
The match was broadcast live in the United Kingdom by both ITV and Sky Sports; the former provided the free-to-air coverage and Sky Sports 2 was the pay-TV alternative.