The biggest bust-ups in World Snooker Championship history
It is the dream of every snooker player to one day walk down the steps at the Crucible Theatre.
The scene of some of snooker’s most iconic moments since the World Championship was first staged there in 1977, the intimate 980-seater venue is like no other in the sport.
Dreams are made and shattered in equal measures every year as 32 players battle to add their name to the illustrious roll of honour.
The 17-day marathon is about the survival of the fittest and who can produce the goods under the most intense pressure.
Inevitably though, that pressure can sometimes become too much – even for the more mild-mannered players on the circuit.
The brief dispute between Anthony McGill and Jamie Clarke during their second-round showdown last week was the latest example of tensions rising on the biggest stage of all.
And in light of the incident, we are going to relive some of the biggest bust-ups in the history of the World Snooker Championship.
Alex Higgins v Colin Randle (1990)
Whenever Alex Higgins was around on the snooker scene, controversy was never normally far away.
One of the most talented and entertaining players ever to pick up a cue, the Hurricane is widely acclaimed with inspiring the sport’s meteoric rise in popularity during the 1970s.
But at the time of his defeat by Steve James in the opening round of the 1990 World Championship – just eight years after celebrating his iconic victory with wife Lynn and baby Lauren – Higgins was heading for self-destruction.
Along with serious financial problems away from the table, he was also facing severe disciplinary action after threatening to have Northern Ireland team-mate Dennis Taylor shot during the World Cup earlier that season.
An evidently intoxicated Higgins, who remained in the empty arena long after the conclusion of his match, punched WPBSA press officer Colin Randle upon arriving for his press conference, before delivering a lengthy slurred tirade, in which he announced his retirement from professional play.
The Hurricane was subsequently banned from competitive snooker for one year and stripped of all his ranking points, effectively spelling the end of his career.
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Alain Robidoux (1996)
Another of snooker’s mavericks, Ronnie O’Sullivan’s ability to perform to the highest standard using both hands is just one of the reasons he is regarded as the most naturally gifted player ever to grace the modern game.
The Rocket first showcased this talent during his opening-round clash with Alain Robidoux in 1996 – albeit rather unwisely.
Leading 8-2 and on course for a commanding 10-3 win, he elected to play several shots with his left hand – much to the delight of the Crucible crowd.
The Canadian was far from impressed, however, and refused to shake the 20-year-old’s hand at the match’s conclusion, later accusing him of being “disrespectful” and “showboating”.
A rebellious O’Sullivan responded that he could play better with his left hand than Robidoux could with his right.
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mike Ganley (1996)
That wasn’t the only bust-up O’Sullivan was involved in during snooker’s blue-riband event that year.
Prior to his quarter-final showdown with John Higgins, the Rocket was involved in an argument with assistant tournament director Mike Ganley after he was asked to remove a guest from the press room because he did not meet the dress requirements.
Following the altercation, O’Sullivan would land a headbutt on Ganley – the man who would come to his rescue by lending him a pair of shoes 19 years later.
The 20-year-old was threatened with disqualification, but was eventually cleared to play in the tournament.
However, he was fined £20,000 for the incident while receiving a suspended two-year ban from the sport.
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stephen Hendry (2002)
Eyebrows were raised when defending champion O’Sullivan added needle to his 2002 semi-final clash with Stephen Hendry.
After beating Stephen Lee in the last eight, the Rocket launched an unprovoked verbal attack on the seven-time World champion.
Then reigning Crucible king, O’Sullivan claimed: “There is not a lot of respect there at all. The most satisfying thing for me would be to send him home to Scotland as quickly as possible for a nice summer off.”
Avoiding conflict but using those comments as motivation, Hendry produced an inspired display on the way to securing a 17-13 win that booked his place in the final.
Good friends with maverick boxer Prince Naseem Hamed at the time, O’Sullivan would later apologise to Hendry claiming he was put up to those antics by the former World champion’s entourage.
Quinten Hann v Andy Hicks (2004)
Another of snooker’s extroverted characters, Australia’s Quinten Hann was renowned for his volatile temperament, while his unconventional pool-style break-off method was deemed unsportsmanlike in large quarters of the game.
His top-16 status was on the line when he faced Andy Hicks in the first round of the 2004 World Championship.
Former Crucible semi-finalist Hicks eventually prevailed a 10-4 winner during a tense showdown.
That tension threatened to boil over when the Devonian remarked ‘that’s you out of the top 16’ as the players shook hands, with referee Lawrie Annandale forced to intervene and prevent them from potentially coming to blows.
Hann reportedly labelled Hicks “short and bald” and unsuccessfully challenged him to a fight.
Mark King stepped in for his good friend to contest the infamous ‘Pot Whack’ boxing match, which the Australian would win.
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Ali Carter (2018)
Having contested the Crucible final in 2008 and 2012, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ali Carter prepared to do battle again in Sheffield in the 2018 second round.
Seeking his first victory over the Rocket in competitive play, Carter ramped up the tension ahead of the showdown, criticising his opponent’s attention-seeking media antics while suggesting he received favourable treatment by the snooker authorities.
That appeared to carry through to the match and with the Captain leading 11-8, the pair hit into each other’s shoulders as O’Sullivan returned to his seat.
A brief exchange ensued with the five-time champion suggesting he was avenging an earlier barge from his opponent, who he labelled ‘Mr Angry’ before referee Paul Collier stepped in to calm the situation.
Undeterred, Carter went on to close out the match 13-9 and book his place in the quarter-finals.