The latest chapter in a series of articles looking back at each campaign from the Crucible era.
Old rivals Alex Higgins and Terry Griffiths, as well as fresh-faced challenger Jimmy White, tried to halt what was quickly becoming the Steve Davis express train throughout the 1981/82 snooker season.
Beginning the term as a first-time world champion didn’t seem to have any impact on the pressure Davis was shouldering.
Davis won the International Open with a whitewash 9-0 victory over Dennis Taylor and helped England to victory in the World Team Classic – ending Wales’ undefeated streak in the competition with a 4-3 success in the final.
The only player who seemed to have any sort of stranglehold over the then dominant 24 year-old was an even younger emerging pretender from London – Jimmy White.
White edged Davis 6-5 in the semi-finals of the Scottish Open en route to a maiden professional title, and then repeated the trick with an 11-9 victory in the final of the Northern Ireland Classic – the first time Davis had been on the losing end of a title-deciding clash in his career.
Any suggestion that White might hold some sort of voodoo over Davis was quickly dispelled, though, at the 1981 UK Championship.
The latter, a defending champion, encountered White in the semi-finals and evidently had revenge on his mind as he thrashed his young countryman 9-0 in Preston.
Davis followed it up by hammering familiar rival Terry Griffiths 16-3 in the final showdown to reign again at the Guild Hall, before adding a couple more prestigious crowns in quick succession.
The quick-fire Pot Black came first, with the “Nugget” preventing Eddie Charlton a record fourth title in the short-formatted event.
Then in late January, Davis triumphed in the Masters with yet another defeat of Welshman Griffiths.
In fact, the pair would meet in half a dozen finals during the 1981/82 snooker season and Griffiths, to his credit, did enjoy glory of his own by outlasting Davis in the finals of both the Classic and the Irish Masters.
In the Classic, Davis compiled the first televised 147 break – somewhat ironically against John Spencer, who had achieved the feat in 1979 only for the camera crew to carelessly miss shooting the footage while taking a break.
Davis endured a rare defeat in a final but the fact that he featured in ten in total in the build-up to his World Championship defence spoke volumes about the utter dominance that he had acquired.
That, of course, is what makes his 1982 first round 10-1 loss to Tony Knowles even more remarkable.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest shocks in the history of snooker, Davis had quite literally run of gas after a taxing campaign that saw him not only contest for silverware in almost every event, but also become the media’s most-wanted personality.
Six-time world champion Ray Reardon, in the twilight of his career, took advantage in the top half of the draw to quite comfortably reach the final.
However, it was the bottom section that was ultimately providing all of the other notable drama.
White’s early-season form had tailed off somewhat after his humbling bagel against Davis in the UK Championship, but he stunned world number one Cliff Thorburn 10-4 to get his second Crucible campaign off to a perfect start.
Two more victories and the 20 year-old, the 1980 world amateur champion, faced off against boyhood hero Higgins in the last four.
A barnstorming affair ensued between a pair of cueists separated by different generations but linked as kindred spirits.
White established a 15-14 lead and was within a couple of pots from a place in the final, only for the “Hurricane” to produce that break.
Higgins duly snatched the victory in the decider, arguably setting into motion a string of painful reverses for his opponent on snooker’s greatest stage.
The original People’s Champion was into the final, and he wasn’t about to disappoint his legion of fans as he wrapped up a tough 18-15 success over Reardon with a magnificent 135 century break.
The scenes that followed, with the Northern Irishman sobbing for his newborn baby, are replayed over and over again.
Higgins should have capped the 1981/82 snooker season by ending it as the world number one, but he was deducted ranking points for disciplinary reasons.
It definitely wouldn’t be the last time that Higgins would get into trouble with the authorities, and there would be some dark times ahead, but 1982 was the year when he was firmly back on top of the world.
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