Sport in 2020 has been a tale of the unexpected and as Hallowe'en approaches, the time seems right to recall some moments when it has also been a horror story.
In 1999, the bewitching hour coincided with a Rugby World Cup semi-final as the New Zealand All Blacks took on France for the right to meet Australia in the final.
The late Jonah Lomu, still then a colossus of world rugby, scored two first-half tries. The All Blacks led 24-10, a seemingly unassailable advantage.
But in the second half France, inspired by the kicking and positional play of fly half Christophe Lamaison, hit back. They put on 33 points, conjuring a turnaround few Frenchman dared to consider, and a readers poll in French newspaper L'Equipe voted it their best World Cup performance.
Yet for New Zealanders, October 31 1999 will forever be the ultimate nightmare.
Gremlins were hard at work in the days before Halloween at the 1986 Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide. British driver Nigel Mansell was in a three-way tussle with Brazilian Nelson Piquet and Frenchman Alain Prost, with Mansell needing only a third-place finish to become Formula One world champion for the first time.
But as he came down the main straight of the street circuit, with less than a quarter of the race left, Mansell’s left rear tyre exploded at 290 kilometres per hour. He demonstrated his tremendous skill in manoeuvring the car to safety. "I’m glad simply to be in one piece," Mansell said. Prost won that year but Mansell did eventually wear the crown in 1992.
Nightmares don’t just come at Halloween as American sprinters Eddie Hart and Rey Robinson discovered at the Olympic Games.
As both rested in the Village after morning heats of the 100 metres in 1972, they turned on the television to see what they thought was a recording of the morning races. In fact the pictures were live.
Coach Stan Wright had been working from an outdated schedule and given them incorrect timings. Reports at the time suggested that he had misunderstood the 24-hour clock used on listings. Whatever happened, Hart and Robinson dashed to the stadium but in vain. They had missed their races and were disqualified.
"Sometimes, I think I’m almost as well known for not winning that gold medal as I would have been for winning one," Hart later told the Los Angeles Times.
He did at least return with 4x100m relay gold. Robinson, left out of the relay squad, was not so fortunate.
There was almost a similar incident in weightlifting at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Ugandan lifter Hakim Ssempereza was at the venue but seemed to lose track of time. Television pictures showed him racing to the platform for his final attempt at 111kg in the snatch. It was no surprise when he failed, and he went on to finish ninth.
Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter had already won 10,000m gold at the 2018 European Championships in Berlin, but in the 5000m, she miscalculated the number of laps and stopped one short.
To compound her nightmare, she was later disqualified for a lane infringement near the start.
"I have to be smart next time," Salpeter said.
At the 2001 World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka, Australia’s Giaan Rooney edged ahead of America’s Diana Munz to touch first for women’s 4x200m freestyle gold.
As she did so, teammates leapt into the water.
At their post race interview with Australia’s Channel Nine television network, their faces suddenly turned from joy to despair.
Officials examining the race video discovered the Australians had jumped in before the race was over. That meant disqualification, but there was an immediate protest.
"The appeal was based on the fact that cameramen and people behind the box encouraged our girls to jump in the pool," said Australian swimming chief John Devitt.
The officials did not budge and without irony, Australian coach Don Talbot described them as "a kangaroo court".
The Americans were also thrown out because of a faulty change, so gold went to Britain, originally third.
Next month, the traditional green jacket will be presented at the Masters. It is a ritual normally enacted in April when Augusta is at its most picturesque, but in 1996, it was more like a haunted forest for Australia’s Greg Norman.
He held a six-shot lead into the final round but opened with a bogey. The round truly began to unravel at the ninth, the first of four successive bogeys, the last a double.
"I could feel the nervousness emanating from Greg," said Nick Faldo who played superbly to seize the advantage and eventually won by five. Norman never did get to wear the green jacket.
In 1999 Frenchman Jean van de Velde had an even stronger position at the final hole of the Open Championship.
Needing only a six to win the title, his second hit the grandstand and rebounded into the rough, and his third into the waters of the Barry Burn. Spectators were astounded to see him wade in. Although he decided to take a drop, he eventually finished with a triple bogey seven, only enough for a play-off.
"I had it in my hands and it slipped away," said a rueful Van de Velde years later, yet he remains better known than eventual winner Paul Lawrie, all because of that nightmare on the 18th.
In 1982, El Salvador’s footballers qualified for the World Cup finals in Spain despite military repression and civil unrest in their homeland.
After a torrid 72-hour journey, they only arrived three days before their first match against Hungary.
Early in the second half they were already five down when Luis Ramírez Zapata scored their only goal from close range. "I was happy and I celebrated as if I’d put us into the lead," he said.
His teammates told him to calm down. "Several of them told me not to celebrate, they were afraid that it would make Hungary angry and we would concede more goals," Zapata said. El Salvador did let in five more and their 10-1 defeat remains the heaviest recorded at the finals.
Even the most successful World Cup nation Brazil have endured nightmares, none worse than those on home soil 64 years apart.
In 1950 they hosted the tournament for the first time. There was no final as such, but as fate would have it, Brazil and Uruguay met in the match which decided the trophy. An estimated 200,000 packed into the Maracanã and when Brazil scored, the goal was greeted by firecrackers.
The reception for Uruguay’s equaliser was less vibrant and then Alcides Ghiggia scored the winner for the visitors.
"Three people have silenced the Maracanã - Frank Sinatra, the Pope, and me," Ghiggia said years later.
Such was the blow to Brazil’s national psyche that they even changed the colour of the team’s shirt from white to the now familiar yellow.
Over the next half century, they won a record five World Cups, so when the tournament returned to Brazil in 2014, hopes were high when they reached the semi-finals.
But even before the match against Germany, there came a serious blow. Star player Neymar was ruled out with a back injury.
Incredibly Brazil conceded five within half an hour and eventually lost 7-1, a record for a semi-final. Brazil’s coach Felipe Scolari called it "the worst moment of my life".
This second home calamity went a long way to explaining the joyous celebrations when Brazil did beat Germany to win Olympic gold at Rio 2016.
Sometimes even in team sports, the nightmare is visited on an individual.
In the dying moments of the 1968 Rugby League Cup final at Wembley, Wakefield Trinity scored a try to bring them to within a point of Leeds. Up stepped Don Fox, chosen as winner of the Lance Todd Trophy for the outstanding player in the game, who had a conversion to win the match.
Fox’s attempt skidded wide. Television commentator Eddie Waring summed up what many felt. "He’s a poor lad," he said.
Fox at least had the consolation of his team mates but in the boxing ring, the victim remains alone.
American heavyweight Crawford Grimsley was nicknamed "The Terminator", at least until he was felled by the very first punch from Las Vegas-based Samoan Jimmy "Thunder" Peau in the opening two seconds of a bout in 1997.
But even that was sluggish compared with an otherwise unremarkable light heavyweight bout at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in Minnesota in June 2007. Brandon Burke was so keen that he raced from the corner straight onto a punch from "Phil the Drill" Williams. Down and out in a second. Burke had worn what master of ceremonies Dan Cole described as "comic book pattern trunks".
Perhaps he had thought it was already Halloween...