1985 World Snooker Championship final
|Steve Davis (ENG)||Dennis Taylor (NIR)|
(1981, 1983, 1984)
|27 years old||36 years old|
|World Ranking: 1||World Ranking: 11|
|Referee: John Williams.|
The 1985 World Snooker Championship final, commonly known as the black ball final, was a snooker match played on the weekend of 27/28 April 1985 at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England. It was contested between defending World Champion Steve Davis and Northern Irishman Dennis Taylor, appearing in his second final. Taylor produced a determined comeback to win the match on the final ball of the final frame, sealing his only world title. The result was a major shock, as Davis was the heavy favourite, having won three of the previous four world championships.
The event was in the eighth year of the BBC's coverage of the event, and snooker was reaching the zenith of its popularity. The climax of the final in the early hours of a Monday morning was watched by 18.5 million people in the United Kingdom, which remains a record for BBC2, and also remains a record post-midnight audience for any channel in the United Kingdom. The total match time of 14 hours 50 minutes is the longest for a best-of-35-frame match.
Road to final
|Steve Davis (ENG)||Round||Dennis Taylor (NIR)|
|Neal Foulds||10–8||First round||Silvino Francisco||10–2|
|David Taylor||13–4||Second round||Eddie Charlton||13–6|
|Terry Griffiths||13–6||Quarter-finals||Cliff Thorburn||13–6|
|Ray Reardon||16–5||Semi-finals||Tony Knowles||16–5|
Davis, who had been ranked the world number one for two years, and would remain in that position for another five, was strong favourite going into the event. The pair met in the semi-finals twelve months before with Davis coming through a convincing winner by 16 frames to 9. Taylor started the final strongly with a fifty plus break but Davis proved too strong by whitewashing Taylor in the first session and won the first frame of the second session to lead 8–0, Taylor won the ninth frame on the pink after Davis attempted and missed a fine cut on the green. This frame appeared to be the turning point of the match. Davis, looking tired and jaded allowed Taylor to win six of the next seven frames, producing quality break building including the highest break of the final of 98 to trail only 7–9 overnight.
Going into the final session, Davis had won two of the first three frames to lead 11–8, before Taylor levelled the match at 11–11. Davis won the next two frames on the final black to lead 13–11, before Taylor drew level at 15–15. Errors were creeping in Davis's game and he looked the more nervous of the two players but he managed to win the next two frames to lead 17–15 again, before Taylor won a hotly contested 33rd frame followed by a fifty plus break in frame 34 to draw level at 17–17 and forced the deciding frame.
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The 35th and final frame lasted 68 minutes. In that frame Davis led 62–44, with only the last four colours on the table, worth 22 points. Taylor stayed in contention by potting a very difficult brown from long range, followed by a tricky blue and pink. This meant that, for the first time, the title would be decided on the very last ball, the black. Taylor tried to double it into the left middle pocket; he missed, but the ball rebounded to a safe position at the top of the table. Davis then played an excellent safety shot, putting the black near the middle of the baulk (bottom) cushion and leaving the cue ball near the right-hand cushion, a little above the corner pocket. Taylor then half-attempted to double the black into the top-left corner pocket but missed, with the black rebounding up and down the table, eventually sneaking past the left middle pocket to a relatively safe position. As the applause died down from the audience, veteran commentator Ted Lowe remarked, "I'm sure Dennis wouldn't mind my saying he chanced his arm, and it's come out lucky". Davis's next attempt went awry, as a double-kiss left Taylor with a reasonable middle-distance pot to the green corner pocket. However, he snatched somewhat at the shot and missed the pot ("the biggest shot of his life", as commentator Jim Meadowcroft described it). Taylor thought, in his disappointment, that he had left Davis a moderately easy cut on the black into the top pocket from fairly close range. However, that pot was at a thinner angle than Taylor had anticipated as he tried to judge where the balls would finish up.
Davis over-cut the black (albeit into a blind pocket), leaving Taylor a fairly straightforward half-ball pot on the black into the same pocket from mid-distance. This time Taylor, stretching a fraction to avoid having to use the rest, sunk the black ball on his fourth shot. As the audience erupted, one of snooker's greatest-ever comebacks was complete at 12.23 a.m. on a Monday morning (29 April 1985). Much was made of Lowe's understated commentary, simply uttering a surprised "No!" when Davis missed his final shot and a joyful "He's done it!" when Taylor potted the black.
|Final: (Best of 35 frames) Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, 27 & 28 April 1985. Referee: John Williams|
|Steve Davis (1)
|17 – 18||Dennis Taylor (11)
|88–50, 93–0, 49–2, 65–38, 95–1, 85–6, 83–20, 121–0, 49–59, 76–27, 49–63, 27–75, 19–99, 1–71, 0–100, 48–77, 25–68, 72–43, 66–58, 48–80, 2–73, 1–80, 64–56, 58–46, 86–13, 43–82, 78–17, 29–84, 4–72, 29–83, 66–6, 81–0, 45–75, 24–71, 62–66|
|Dennis Taylor wins the 1985 World Snooker Championship|
Davis went on to lose the following year's final to Joe Johnson, before winning three in a row to give him six in total. Davis and Taylor would meet once more at the World Championship in 1991, with Davis this time winning comfortably 13–7 in the quarter-final. Taylor never reached the final again, but did win the Masters in 1987, again producing a memorable comeback this time against Alex Higgins. Some months later, a special programme was recorded which was hosted by David Vine. In this programme, both Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor watched the entire frame and discussed it shot by shot. As David Vine stated, this was the first time that Steve Davis had actually watched the frame. The programme features some insight into certain shots. Dennis Taylor asks Steve Davis about one shot in particular, a potentially key shot (if Taylor had potted his first clear chance at the black.) After Taylor had missed the initial double into the centre pocket and then the long double into the top pocket, Davis was left with a chance to either double the black into the top right hand pocket, or play the black "around the angles" with a chance of making the "cocked hat" shot into the centre pocket. Taylor, like millions of TV viewers watching that night, did not know which of the two shots Davis had played. Davis confirmed that he had in fact played the latter, but had not got the angle necessary to pull it off easily. In fact, he states that it may have worked but "I hit it too hard, the white checked up (left the cushion too straight.)" The most remembered shot where Davis missed the fine cut into the corner pocket was unfortunately not discussed in detail. Davis states "I was saying to myself, don't hit it thick" and "that's how you bottle it, by hitting it thick." However he did not elaborate on whether he was forced to use side spin to avoid a possible in off foul stroke into the middle pocket (This would have cost him the match) or whether he played it with centre ball striking. He summarised: "although I missed the black, it wasn't that shot which lost the match. There were other shots earlier in the frame." In particular, Davis mentions how close he was to being able to pot a pink which he snookered himself on that changed the course of the match. David Vine closes the programme by asking both players their opinion regarding some voices claiming the match must have been fixed. This preposterous notion gives a fascinating insight into the prevailing naivety in some quarters with regard to Snooker in 1985, when it was still a comparatively young TV sport and reaching its zenith in popularity. Davis replies "Well, its simple. They don't understand. If anyone ever came up to me and asked if the match was fixed, I would just say yeah it was, yeah. It's just not even worth arguing with people like that." Davis allowed himself to joke about the defeat, making a joke about being asked by a petrol station attendant if he wanted glasses (free tumblers) and has now admitted that he will probably be remembered more for the final he did not win in 1985 than for the six he did. But barely months after the final he states "although I lost the match, it was great to be involved in. To be involved in something like that." The programme was later released on DVD as "The Greatest Snooker Final Of All Time" by Retro Videos. Both players now commentate on BBC's snooker coverage and are often reminded of that match. The black-ball finish was voted the ninth greatest sporting moment of all time in a 2002 Channel 4 poll.
During the 2010 World Championship, Taylor and Davis 're-created' the final frame of the 1985 final. Performed in a distinctly irreverent manner, the "rerun" was noticeable for the fact that in attempting to replicate the missed shots on the final black, they instead ended up potting it on all but one attempt. Ironically, the one attempt on the black they did miss was the shot Taylor potted in the 1985 match to win the championship. BBC Two aired a one-hour documentary on the final, Davis v Taylor: The '85 Black Ball Final, presented by Colin Murray, after the conclusion of the coverage of the 2010 final.
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