We continue the countdown with choices 8 to 7...

8) JOE JOHNSON 13, TERRY GRIFFITHS 12 (Quarter-finals, 1986)

The 1986 final looked a done deal by the time the quarter-finals came around: Steve Davis, the game’s top dog despite his black ball defeat to Dennis Taylor the previous year, against Terry Griffiths, the former champion who had edged Alex Higgins in a decider in the previous round.

Joe Johnson had other ideas. The 150/1 title outsider had quietly arrived in the last eight and held a 9-7 lead over Griffiths entering their final session.

Griffiths, though, seized control, taking five frames on the spin to lead 12-9. “Terry was one of my big stumbling blocks. He’d always given me a big thumping,” Joe told me recently on the Snooker Scene podcast.

“I was always in front in the match but from 9-7 he got into some kind of a groove. I remember thinking to myself, what have I done? How have I got myself into this place? The old Griff’s going to do me again. So I just thought to myself, I’m going to have a go.”

And have a go he did. Breaks of 104 and 110 were the highlights as Johnson won four frames in just 52 minutes to complete the recovery and win 13-12.

You could forgive the losing player being speechless after such a defeat. In fact, Griffiths took Johnson aside and gave him some advice on how to handle winning the title if he went on to do so, which speaks volumes about the Welshman.

7) MARK WILLIAMS 17, JOHN HIGGINS 15 (Semi-finals, 2000)

It’s hard to believe a non-existent handshake could play a pivotal role in snooker history but that was the key factor in John Higgins losing seven of the final session’s eight frames to deny him a place in the 2000 world final and, in all probability, a second world title.

Higgins led 14-10 going into the evening's play. Williams had already packed his cases for home between sessions.

At the start of the last session, Williams, perhaps too relaxed, forgot to shake Higgins’s hand. For some reason, the Scotsman allowed this to affect him, worried that he had done something to offend the Welsh left-hander.

What transpired was a rare Higgins collapse from a winning position. He got 15-11 ahead but failed to win another frame as Williams battled through.

Higgins regards the defeat as the most disappointing of his career. “What I should have done is just gone over to Mark and shaken his hand, but I let it play on my mind all evening,” he told me during the Snooker Scene Podcast.

Williams would win the final against Matthew Stevens while Higgins would have to wait another seven years for his second world title.


Monique said...

John Higgins' worries about possibly offending Mark Williams unwillingly also speak volumes about his natural kindnes and social sensitivity :)

John H said...

Totally right Monique. It was one of the most combative atmospheres I have ever experienced in the Crucible that night with the Welsh and Scottish camps clearly divided in an intensive but friendly rivalry. Higgins had looked the champion all the way through that year until 15-11. A remarkable session saw Higgins seem to lose focus but no one could of guessed why that was until he acknowledged the effect of the missing handshake years later.
Definitely one of my top 5 Crucible evenings over the last 26 years