The latest chapter in a series of articles looking back at each campaign from the Crucible era.
After the success of the 1978 World Championship, which returned to the Crucible Theatre for a second time and was aired in its entirety on the BBC, snooker’s powers knew they had the opportunity to increase the calendar for the 1978/79 snooker season.
The UK Championship was launched during the prior term and many new additions were quickly introduced thereafter – some successful and others not so much.
One tournament that had, by contrast, been around for a number of years already was the Canadian Open.
It had become rather customary for this competition to serve as one of the regular openers to a season.
Local lad Cliff Thorburn triumphed as a relative newbie to the snooker circuit in the first edition back in 1974 but had failed to make it beyond the quarter-finals in the three years after.
In 1978, Thorburn was the highest ranked player in the field as the top four in the world didn’t compete, and the “Grinder” held off Tony Meo in a marathon battle 17-15 to reclaim his home crown.
Soon after, the inaugural Champion of Champions was staged, a very early example of what has more recently become one of the most prestigious tournaments.
In those days there was no such thing as the Triple Crown, but it’s interesting to note that the 1978 Champion of Champions featured the winners of the World Championship, the Masters, and the UK Championship – highlighting their level of importance already.
Ray Reardon, Alex Higgins, and Patsy Fagan were joined by Pot Back winner Doug Mountjoy at the Wembley Conference Centre.
After emerging with relatively routine semi-final victories, Reardon and Higgins faced off in a close showdown in London, with the reigning world champion withstanding a late comeback from his rival to prevail 11-9.
While the tournament would only be contested once more until 2011, the venue was obviously deemed a success.
Two months later, the Wembley Conference Centre hosted the Masters for what would transpire to be the first of 28 times in the capital city.
Higgins again fell just short, missing out on a successful defence of the title with an 8-4 reverse against South African Perrie Mans.
The latter’s glory was infamously made all the more remarkable considering he won all three of his matches without compiling a single break above 50.
Of the new events that were introduced during the 1978/79 snooker season, many boasted odd formats, and round-robins were a popular feature.
Higgins avenged his earlier defeat to Reardon by winning the four-man Tolly Cobbald Classic.
John Spencer appeared to enjoy the league format, triumphing in the Bombay International as the sport, under a professional guise, returned to the place of its birth – India – for the first time.
The Englishman also won an oddly put together event in Slough, somewhat aptly named the Holsten Lager International.
Those behind its conception must have enjoyed a few beers themselves, with a mixture of accumulated points and frames won required to advance through the rounds.
Spencer, though, was in top form as he constructed the first ever 147 break in a professional tournament, albeit to his dismay it was never officially recognised as the table didn’t meet the required specs.
An event that was settling into its classic format was the UK Championship, which like the Masters moved to a new permanent home in Preston at the Guild Hall.
Reigning champion Fagan couldn’t negotiate his opening hurdle, with conqueror David Taylor making it all the way to the final.
It was as far as the “Silver Fox” would ever get in one of snooker’s majors, as Doug Mountjoy took advantage of dominant forces Reardon and Spencer’s exits in the first round.
Mountjoy isn’t mentioned as often as some of the other stars of that era, including numerous characters who didn’t win as many important titles, but in the space of just under two years he had etched his name into the history books with victories in two out of the biggest three events.
Several months later, the 1978/79 snooker season reached its crescendo with the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.
Prize money had doubled since snooker’s holy grail was contested for the first time at the Crucible just two years earlier, underlining the rapid development the sport was undergoing.
Many new faces were emerging and beginning to make names for themselves as the audience on television continued to fall in love with the game.
Reardon won his first clash but inevitably succumbed to the “Curse of the Crucible” with defeat to Dennis Taylor in the last eight.
Something else notable occurred in the quarter-finals, as the larger than life Bill Werbeniuk compiled a magnificent 142 total clearance – the highest break recorded on TV at the time.
Northern Ireland’s Taylor reached the final, in which he faced rookie Terry Griffiths for the silverware.
Upon edging Eddie Charlton in an epic last four battle, Griffiths endeared himself to millions when he humbly muttered in his thick Welsh accent, “I’m in the final now, you know!”
The qualifier subsequently beat Taylor 24-16 to land the £10,000 champion’s cheque at the first time of asking.
The 1978/79 snooker season had another – interesting – newcomer to the scene, but more on that later.