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Five of the greatest Crucible comebacks

Ken Doherty's fightback stunned Paul Hunter in 2003 (credit: Tom Shaw/Getty Images)

As the 2018 World Snooker Championship draws towards its climax, we look back on five memorable comebacks in the history of the Crucible.

There is nothing that the fans in Sheffield love more than seeing the top players produce their best snooker on the biggest stage of all.

They also love the drama when a match swings one way and then another, as the great venue brings out the best and worst in the game's elite.

Here, we pick our five most memorable comebacks in Crucible history.

Mark Selby 18-14 Ronnie O’Sullivan – 2014 Final


Ronnie O’Sullivan had progressed to his third consecutive Crucible final with a session to spare after romping to a 17-7 victory over Barry Hawkins in the last four.

By contrast, Mark Selby had prevailed a narrow 17-15 winner in an epic showdown with Neil Robertson, and he appeared fatigued as he fell 10-5 behind against the Rocket in his second final appearance.

But the Jester somehow mustered the energy to win the last two frames of the opening day and, after a good night’s sleep, he appeared rejuvenated on day two and overturned the deficit to lead 12-11.

He then moved 15-12 ahead and, despite O’Sullivan reducing the deficit to 15-14, restored his three-frame buffer at 17-14 and to the brink of a first World title.

Trailing 56-27 with 35 points remaining in frame 32, Selby produced the clearance of his life with superb positional shots along the way to completing the career Triple Crown and inflicting the Rocket’s first defeat in a Crucible final.



Peter Ebdon 13-11 Ronnie O’Sullivan – 2005 Quarter-Finals


The 2014 final was not the first time that O’Sullivan was on the wrong end of an inspired comeback at the Crucible.

He also came unstuck against Peter Ebdon in the 2005 quarter-finals, albeit in controversial circumstances.

Ebdon is renowned for his hard and methodical style of play, putting maximum effort into every shot that he plays. However, he appeared to overstep the marker during his clash with O'Sullivan.

The Rocket took control of their encounter – taking a commanding lead of 8-2 – but Ebdon ground his way back into the contest.

The 2002 World champion drew widespread criticism in doing so, though, as he slowed the pace of the game right down, notably taking over five minutes to compile a break of 12 – the same time it took O'Sullivan to make a maximum eight years earlier.

His opponent was clearly affected as he was seen feigning sleep, asking a spectator for the time and breaking the skin on his forehead with a frustrated scratch, while Ebdon went on to win the match 13-11.



Mark Selby 18-15 John Higgins – 2017 Final


Once again, Selby found himself needing to overturn a heavy deficit in the 2017 showpiece.

Like in 2014, his exertions in a 17-15 semi-final win over Ding Junhui appeared to be looming as he fell 10-4 behind against four-time champion John Higgins.

But the Jester dug deep to take the final three frames of the opening day to only trail 10-7 overnight, and won six of the first seven on day two to lead 13-11.

He then stretched his advantage to 16-12 and 17-15, before a break of 75 secured his third World title.


Ken Doherty 17-16 Paul Hunter – 2003 Semi-Finals


Paul Hunter came flying out of the blocks on his first appearance in the one-table set-up at the Crucible; racing into a 6-2 lead at the end of the opening session of his semi-final against 1997 champion Ken Doherty.

He then increased his advantage to 11-5 and then 15-9 as the lengthy matches of the opening rounds appeared to be taking their toll on Doherty, who had come through two deciding-frame finishes along the way.

The Beckham of the Baize stood on the brink of victory – needing just two frames to advance to the final.

However, his smooth cueing and free-flowing style-of-play deserted him in the final session and, sensing an opportunity of an unlikely comeback, the Irishman pounced by winning seven of the eight frames to level at 16-16 and force a decider.

There was to be no fairy-tale finish for Hunter, who would sadly never go this far again at the Crucible before his tragic death in 2006, as Doherty dominated proceedings to prevail a narrow 17-16 triumph.

Nevertheless, despite his obvious disappointment, the Leeds cueist maintained his first-class sportsmanship by coming forward to graciously shake his opponent’s hand and wish him all the best in the final.



Dennis Taylor 18-17 Steve Davis – 1985 Final


April 29, 1985 is a date that will forever be etched in Snooker folklore. At 12.19am, with 18.5 million people watching, Dennis Taylor completed the greatest comeback in Crucible history to beat Steve Davis on the final black.

Taylor, donning a pair of oversized spectacles that would become his trademark, trailed 8-0 against world number one Davis, who was bidding for a fourth World title during his 1980s dominance.

However, the popular Irishman fought back to only trail 9-7 overnight and eventually levelled at 17-17 to force a decider.

After 68 minutes of astute tactical play and bad misses under the insurmountable pressure, it came down to the final black.

Taylor had a go at a couple of doubles before missing a shot to the top right corner, leaving a thin cut for Davis to clinch the title.

Incredibly, the Nugget overcut his attempt and sent the white flying around the table, setting up a fairly routine black for Taylor to knock in before performing the iconic victory salute of raising the cue above his head and wagging his finger.



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Five of the greatest Crucible comebacks

As the 2018 World Snooker Championship draws towards its climax, we look back on five memorable comebacks in the history of the Crucible.

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