The 1985 World Snooker Championship final is often cited as the most exciting game of snooker ever seen. It was played on the weekend of 27-28 April 1985 at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield in the United Kingdom between Northern Irishman Dennis Taylor, appearing in his second final and Steve Davis, the then defending world champion, who had also won three of the previous four world championships titles.
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 was watched by 18.5 million people, which was a record for BBC2, the channel showing the event, a record post-midnight audience for any channel in Britain and, at the time, the record audience for any sporting event in the country. The total match time of 14 hours 50 minutes was the longest ever recorded for a 35-frame match.
Davis, who had been ranked the world number one for four years, and would remain in that position for another four, was strong favourite going into the event. He whitewashed Taylor in the first session, and after the first frame of the second was leading 8 frames to 0. However a superb fightback punctuated with fine breaks from Taylor saw him close the gap to only 7-9 at the end of the first day. Going into the final session, he had levelled the match at 11-11. The final instalment, a marathon five-hour effort, saw Davis lead 17-15 in the first to 18 frames final. Taylor clawed his way back to level at 17-17.
The final frame, a very tense and nervous affair, lasted 68 minutes - three times as long as a typical frame between professional players and one of the longest in ranking-event history.
At 44-62 down, Taylor stayed alive by potting an incredible brown, followed by a tricky blue and pink, meaning that, for the first time, the title would be decided on the very last ball, the black. Each player had two goes on the black before Taylor was left with a reasonable middle-distance pot to the green pocket. However, he snatched at the shot a little and missed the pot, leaving (as he thought, in his disappointment) Davis a moderately easy cut into the top pocket from close enough range. However, the pot was left at a thinner angle than Taylor had anticipated as he tried to judge where the balls would end up when he missed the pot.
Davis overcut the black (into a blind pocket, admittedly) and left Taylor with a fairly straightforward half-ball black into the same pocket from mid distance. This time the popular Ulsterman, almost stretching a fraction to avoid having to use the rest, made no mistake and snooker's greatest ever comeback was complete. This epic match was over at 12.19 a.m on a Monday morning (29 April 1985). Much was made of the understated commentary for the BBC of Ted Lowe, who simply gave a bemused "No!" when Davis missed his final shot; and a joyed "He's done it!" when Taylor potted the black.
In contrast to an ashen-faced Davis, Taylor's unrestrained joy - foot-stamping, finger-wagging and holding his cue aloft whilst hundreds of camera flashes popped around him - has become part of snooker folklore. The celebrations back home in Northern Ireland were scarcely less restrained.
Davis went on to lose the final to Joe Johnson the following year, before winning three in a row to give him six in total. He has since come to terms with the defeat, allowing himself to joke about it and also admitting that he will probably be remembered for the final he didn't win in 1985 than for the six he did.
No final since has matched the drama of that particular evening. Polls indicate that the final frame remains one of British sport's golden moments.
World Rankings (Top 16)
1. Steve Davis (England)
2. Cliff Thorburn (Canada)
3. Tony Knowles (England)
4. Dennis Taylor (Northern Ireland)
5. Kirk Stevens (Canada)
6. Ray Reardon (Wales)
7. Jimmy White (England)
8. Terry Griffiths (Wales)
9. Alex Higgins (Northern Ireland)
10. Tony Meo (England)
11. Willie Thorne (England)
12. Eddie Charlton (Australia)
13. Silvino Francisco (South Africa)
14. David Taylor (England)
15. Doug Mountjoy (Wales)
16. Joe Johnson (England)