Abstract We analyzed the stability of the retained gob-side entry in four different Chinese coal mining sites and evaluated the influencing factors of roadway deformation such as mining depth, support strength and area of gob-side hanging roof. It was found that the length of cantilever roof block above roadway has a major impact on the deformation, whereas the impact of mining depth is minor if the depth is less than 500m. Minimum support resistance of 0.3MPa is essential to effectively confine the deformation of a retained roadway. We performed physical experiments to further study the features of roof fracturing and their impact on roadway deformation under three typical immediate roof conditions, i.e., thick-immediate roof, thin-immediate roof and non-immediate roof. In addition, equations to calculate desired support resistance of filled gob-side wall were derived based on superimposed continuous laminate model. The results provide valuable theoretical and practical guidance for implementing pillarless gob-side entry retaining in engineering practices.