The latest chapter in a series of articles looking back at each campaign from the Crucible era.
Ranking events during the 1986/87 snooker season were dominated by three players – Steve Davis, Jimmy White, and relative newcomer Neal Foulds.
On the Main Tour since 1983, Foulds was the son of another professional on the circuit, Geoff Foulds.
In 1986, the pair famously met in the first round of the English Professional Championship – a match which the younger Foulds won en route to a place in the final.
The latter narrowly lost to Tony Meo in that tournament, but he was beginning to demonstrate an ability to mix it with the big boys.
Still, few perhaps would have expected the then 23 year-old to challenge so consistently as he did throughout the 1986/87 snooker season.
The campaign’s opening ranking event was the BCE International Open, and Foulds was again in action against his father – this time thrashing the old man 5-0 in the last 32.
Foulds junior took advantage of a kind draw overall to reach the final, where he ultimately overcame Cliff Thorburn 12-9 to claim his maiden professional crown.
The Englishman proved his victory was no fluke by embarking on subsequent runs to the finals of both the UK Championship and the British Open, only to be denied by Davis and White respectively.
At this stage of the decade, it was pretty clear that Davis and White were the top guns of the sport – albeit the “Whirlwind” still tended to blow hot and cold in comparison to the raging inferno that was the “Nugget”.
Preceding Davis’ success in Preston was a victory for White in the Grand Prix, and soon after the pair faced off against one another in a blockbuster Mercantile Credit Classic showdown for glory in Blackpool.
There was never more than a frame or two in it, but Davis edged a nervy decider to deny his opponent a successful title defence.
Davis and White were again at it in the semi-finals of the World Snooker Championship, and what was becoming a familiar outcome materialised again in favour of the three-time world champion.
It marked the fourth time since his debut in 1981 that White was dumped out by the world number one in Sheffield.
To everyone’s surprise, Joe Johnson faced Davis in a repeat of the final at the Crucible Theatre from twelve months previously.
The 1986/87 snooker season was a tough one as the world champion, but Johnson raised his game for Sheffield and produced strong displays to outlast a young Stephen Hendry and then Foulds in the last four.
To this day, Johnson holds the record as the player who came the closest to breaking the “Curse of the Crucible”, but his 14 frames weren’t enough as Davis finally, after consecutive painful defeats at the last hurdle, triumphed for a fourth time.
Meanwhile, right at the very beginning of the term, the Matchroom boys were once again travelling around the globe to spread the gospel of the game.
Dennis Taylor featured heavily in the business end of these invitational competitions – from Ireland to Australia, and Asia in between.
The Northern Irishman couldn’t replicate this kind of form in the ranking events, but a 6-5 victory over Thorburn helped him through to a grandstand contest against countryman Alex Higgins in the final of the prestigious Masters.
Higgins, now struggling to keep up with the influx of emerging young stars, looked on course for a popular third Masters success.
However, trailing 8-5, Taylor reeled off the last four frames to prevail in a decider at a raucous Wembley Conference Centre.
Higgins and Taylor later teamed up with Eugene Hughes to claim the World Cup for Ireland for an incredible third year in a row.
But tensions between the pair would soon reach boiling point, as we’ll find out soon enough.