It is one of the defining moments of sporting history...
A staggering 18 million people across the UK alone were glued to their TV screens long past midnight to see the battle unfold between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor which has since entered into legend.
Upstart Taylor was attempting to stop Davis from winning his third World Championship in a row. Having trailed eight frames to nothing, Taylor somehow pulled the 35-frame 1985 final back to 17-all before setting up the ‘black ball finish’ that has since gone down in history.
The BBC is set to make Sheffield centre stage again this weekend when The One Show is broadcast live from the Crucible Theatre tomorrow at 7pm on BBC One. Steve Davis will attempt to re-pot his final missed black on the One Show live, launching the BBC’s Cue Sheffield festival on the eve of the World Snooker Championships, which kick off on Saturday.
To mark the return of the snooker this weekend, The Star sat down with Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor to relive that climactic finale.
Davis needed only to pot the black to win the frame, the game, and another world championship. He missed it, and could only look on in anguish as Taylor potted and took the trophy, despite never having led once in the entire game.
“Let me talk you through his final shot on the black,” Taylor says.
“I was thinking ‘oh what a chance I’ve got now, I’ve won two frames to level it at 17-all’, so I’m thinking I must be in with a very good chance because Steve’s mindset is not going to be great.
“But at the end of the day our last frame is the toss of a coin. We didn’t think we were going to miss some of the shots that we missed in that final frame. And the safety was excellent, but when we got in amongst the balls the tension was massive.
“Steve got out of his seat to cut the black in, he walked across the Crucible floor and he said his legs didn’t feel like his legs, and when he put his hands on the table he said his hands didn’t feel like his hands. And he had to cut the black in, and under pressure you hit the shot thick, and he was saying ‘don’t hit it too thick’, and he didn’t, he hit it too thin and he stuffed the black up.
“You’re just doing what you’ve always done. We were just trying to knock the balls into the pockets and trying to keep as relaxed as we could, but how can you under those circumstances?”
Davis adds: “It was like someone had taken all the blood out of me and put it into Dennis. There was a transfusion going on.
“In all seriousness the best players in a sport have got the ability to not worry about what’s happened, they don’t dwell on bad shots, but they also don’t try to look to far into the future, with what ifs, what happens afterwards.
“Therefore most players are very adept at just playing the balls in front of them. But obviously you’ve got the tension in the room and the crowd are losing it, whilst you’re trying to keep it together, and it’s very hard not to lose it as well because the crowd are losing it.
“It wouldn’t be the same if you were playing in an empty room. You’d never get the same thing. You’re affected by the crowd.
“So the white ball came round the table, and I went back to my seat and Dennis got up and obviously whilst it was a very get-able shot, Dennis tried to keep as composed as possible and make sure that he didn’t tense up on the shot, and unfortunately for me he didn’t tense up.
“He kept a very loose grip on his queue, took his time, knocked it in, and it was never in doubt that he was going to knock it in.
“And then obviously did what was deserved of a winner, he had centre stage to do what ever he wanted. So he put his cue over the top of his head and wagged his finger like every world champion would and I sat there and took it on the chin.
“I waited for David Vine to come out and say the famous words – ‘can you believe what happened’ and I was able to come out with some sort of ironic joke that it was all there in black and white.
“The difference between winning and losing are a ball’s width and when it goes wrong there’s always somebody there who will knock the ball in, wag his finger and put his cue above his head.”
Both players agree the game helped propel snooker – already a very popular sport in the UK in the mid-1980s – on to the global stage, as well as help cement Sheffield as the snooker capital of the world.
Davis adds: “I don’t think we really were aware how many countries it was sold to because all of a sudden we were turning up in China, Thailand, and they had seen something of snooker, they’d seen the final, me and Dennis, they had seen Pot Black in Australia, so what we were building up was a sort of foray into the new territories for the game and we weren’t aware of that at the time.”
“The snooker championship was watched last year in 20 countries, and 330 million people watched it,” adds Dennis.
But will any game ever top that one for excitement?
“I keep thinking one day they will get a re-spotted black and that will overtake our final and people will start talking about that,” says Taylor.
“But I don’t want that to happen. I want to keep on talking about it!”
Davis adds: “There have been some astonishing games, The sport always throws up astonishing matches and cliffhangers, but there was something about that particular evening that everybody got involved.”
For full info on the BBC Cue Sheffield free events and programmes click here