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7 Iconic snooker moments at the Crucible

BY Margaret Brecknell

14th Apr 2023 Sport

7 Iconic snooker moments at the Crucible

With the 96th World Snooker Championships just about to commence, we look back on some of the most exciting moments to occur at the Crucible Theatre

All eyes will once more be on Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre when this year’s World Snooker Championship begins in the middle of April. Here are seven of the most memorable past moments from snooker’s showpiece event. 

Emotional win for Higgins (1982)


The Crucible Theatre has been home to the Championships since 1977. Photo credit: Mark Richards

Crowd favourite, Alex “Hurricane” Higgins, won his second world title when he defeated the Welsh wizard, Ray Reardon, by 18 frames to 15 in the 1982 final. His victory was sealed with a spectacular 135 break that cemented his reputation as snooker’s greatest entertainer. Higgins’ second world title had been a long time coming. He had been only 22 years of age when, a decade earlier, he’d won his first in the distinctly unglamorous setting of the Selly Park British Legion. 

"There was hardly a dry eye in the house, as the Irishman wept uncontrollably"

Higgins’ 1982 Crucible victory is probably as much remembered today for his emotional response to winning the title as for the undoubted brilliance of his snooker. There was hardly a dry eye in the house, as the Irishman wept uncontrollably when he was presented with the trophy and embraced his baby daughter. 

First maximum 147 at The Crucible (1983) 


Thorburn's game was so impressive the second tournament paused so the other players could watch

Former World Champion, Cliff Thorburn, hit the headlines in 1983 when he became the first player to complete a maximum 147 break at the Crucible. Luck was on Thorburn’s side that day. He outrageously fluked the first red at the start of his history-making break, which came during his second-round match against Terry Griffiths.  As Thorburn edged ever nearer to the magic 147, his fellow Canadian, Bill Werbenuik, appeared from behind the partition that separated the two tournament tables. He had stopped play in his own match so that he could witness his friend make history.  

Thorburn went on to reach the final that year, losing 18-6 to Steve Davis.  

The epic “black ball” final (1985)

 
Despite a strong start for Davis, Taylor managed to level twice, eventually claiming the victory. Photo credit: Joni-Pekka Luomala

Steve Davis started as strong favourite to win his fourth world title when he met Irishman, Dennis Taylor, in the 1985 final. He looked to be well on his way when he won all seven frames in the first session, before his opponent began to stage a dramatic comeback. Taylor eventually pulled level at 15-15, but lost the next two frames and Davis only needed one more for victory. 

"Despite the lateness of the hour, his win was watched by a TV audience of over 18 million"

Remarkably, Taylor levelled again, meaning that the outcome hinged on the final 35th frame of the match. In a dramatic conclusion, the frame was decided by the final black ball. With the clock already well past midnight, it was the plucky Irishman who completed a famous victory.  Despite the lateness of the hour, his win was watched by a TV audience of over 18 million and Taylor’s famous finger-wagging victory celebration became part of sporting history. 

Fastest 147 break of all time (1997)


Despite being knocked out in the next round, O'Sullivan's win cemented his reputation as the most exciting modern performer

Ronnie O’Sullivan was at his electrifying best on the day he achieved the first maximum 147 break of his career during the first round of the 1997 Championship. “Rocket” Ronnie completed his maiden 147 in a phenomenal 5 minutes and 8 seconds, the fastest time ever recorded. In contrast, Cliff Thorburn’s historic 1983 maximum break had taken over three times as long. 

The then 21-year-old O’Sullivan was knocked out in the following round and would not win his first world title for another four years, but his reputation as the modern era’s most electrifying performer was sealed that day. 

Hendry claims a record-breaking seventh title (1999) 

Stephen Hendry confirmed his status as one of snooker’s all-time greats in winning a record-breaking seventh title at the 1999 World Championship. Still only 29 years of age, the Scot had defeated rising star, Ronnie O’Sullivan, in a hard-fought semi-final before defeating Welshman, Mark Williams, 18-11 in the final.  

Hendry’s feat was equalled 23 years later by O’Sullivan at the 2022 Championship.  

First female referee (2003) 


Tabb left the circuit in 2015, but her legacy lives on. Photo credit: DerHexer

In 2003, Michaela Tabb became the first female match referee to officiate at the Crucible. Six years later, she achieved an even more significant milestone when she was appointed as referee for the 2009 final between John Higgins and Shaun Murphy. She also refereed the 2012 final when Ronnie O’Sullivan defeated Ali Carter.  

Although Tabb quit the professional snooker circuit in 2015, she acted as a trailblazer for the ever-growing group of female referees that are now involved at the top level of the sport. 

Williams narrowly defeats Higgins in classic final (2018) 

Mark Williams won the third world title of his career – 15 years after his last – when he defeated four-time winner John Higgins 18-16 in one of the best finals in Crucible history. The victory marked a remarkable return to form for the Welshman. He had failed to qualify for the tournament the previous year and had seriously considered retirement. 

"The victory marked a remarkable return to form for the Welshman. He had failed to qualify for the tournament the previous year and had seriously considered retirement"

Williams completed a dramatic semi-final win over Barry Hawkins only minutes before midnight and hardly slept the night before the final, but he still dominated the contest’s early stages. At one point, he led Higgins by seven frames, before the Scot staged a dramatic recovery to level the match at 15 frames all. Williams then had to call on all his years of experience to hold his nerve and see out the match. 

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