The latest chapter in a series of articles looking back at each campaign from the Crucible era.
When it comes to on-the-table storylines and drama, the 1993/94 snooker season had them in absolute abundance.
The cast of characters included a mix of the firmly established and the emerging pretenders who would help to bring the sport into a new dawn.
Snooker was opened up professionally in 1991, and by the middle of the decade several of the players who had recently graduated from the amateur scene began to make more of a regular impact.
Alan McManus, Ken Doherty, and Peter Ebdon were three players who enjoyed success during this term.
Ebdon overcame Doherty to win his maiden ranking title at the Grand Prix soon after the Irishman had in turn beaten McManus on the latter’s home turf to claim the invitational Scottish Masters.
McManus, by now the world number six having made back-to-back appearances in the World Championship semi-finals, lost 10-9 to the Dubliner and would suffer further in the title deciders of both the Welsh Open and the Irish Masters.
Both defeats were to Steve Davis, who triumphed at Goffs for an incredible eighth and final time with a 9-8 scoreline that would become remarkably common in County Kildare over the coming few years.
By this point, though, McManus had already firmly written himself into the history books.
The month before the Irish Masters, the Masters in London was played out in its familiar setting of the Conference Centre.
If Stephen Hendry was in the process of making the Crucible Theatre his second home, then the Conference Centre was his backyard.
The world number one had never lost a match at the venue, etching his name onto the silverware on each of his five previous appearances.
When Hendry lost only six frames en route to another final, there was nothing to suggest anything other than another straightforward victory in the English capital.
McManus was the challenger, by now building up a reputation of becoming a nearly man who could reach finals and semi-finals but couldn’t make that necessary leap into the highest echelons.
Yet, the Glaswegian produced arguably the performance of his career against Hendry, fighting back from 7-5 and 8-7 down to pinch glory from his countryman in a decider.
For Hendry, it was an unusually barren spell in the majors as he also missed out on the UK Championship title just before Christmas.
In that final in Preston, he crossed paths with a certain Ronnie O’Sullivan, who had turned professional just a year earlier.
The 17 year-old was immediately impressing audiences with his rapid decision making and a brash mentality of taking on outrageous shots that few would even think of, let alone entertain attempting.
Hendry had beaten O’Sullivan in their first meeting en route to winning the Dubai Classic in October, but a new rival was definitely on his radar.
At the Guild Hall, O’Sullivan outplayed the master 10-6 to become the youngest ever ranking event champion.
The pair would meet two more times during the 1993/94 snooker season – a few weeks later in the final of the European Open when Hendry duly gained his immediate revenge, and at the British Open when O’Sullivan again prevailed before claiming a second trophy.
Two wins apiece, and it was clear already that these two would have many more brawls to come.
At the British Open, O’Sullivan sealed success with a victory over James Wattana, another star player from this period.
Indeed, the Thai was featuring in his third ranking event final on the trot – losing to John Parrott in the International Open before winning his home event, the Thailand Masters in Bangkok.
As the 1994 World Snooker Championship rolled around, there was a sense that it was the most open in years.
This opinion was enhanced by a peculiar accident in his bathroom that left reigning champion Hendry with a broken arm midway through the competition.
Hendry hadn’t won a tournament in months, looked somewhat vulnerable in the Triple Crown events for the first time, and now had a significant injury to overcome, potentially leaving the door open for his rivals.
A 13-2 annihilation of Dave Harold in the second round seemed to suggest otherwise, however.
As it was, the likes of O’Sullivan, McManus, Doherty, and Wattana all failed to go beyond the quarter-finals stage, and Hendry was left to negotiate his two more established rivals instead.
First, Davis was conquered with a routine 16-9 scoreline in the last four – the last time the six-time champion reached the single table set-up.
In the final, it was an even more familiar face in Jimmy White, who hadn’t done much throughout the 1993/94 snooker season but saved his best snooker for one more stab at a world title.
White and his legion of fans had suffered heartbreak after heartbreak on the final weekend in Sheffield each year.
Since 1982, the “Whirlwind” had reached five finals and three additional semi-finals, but could not engrave his name onto the trophy.
Was this the year? After an epic encounter, parity was restored at 17-17 and a dramatic winner-takes-all frame ensued.
In amongst the balls and with destiny finally within his grasp, the pressure strangled White and he snatched at a routine black off the spot, throwing away his biggest opportunity yet to secure the title on what was his 32nd birthday.
Hendry, who admitted later that he thought he had lost, recovered with a steely break to claim a fourth World Championship at the Crucible.
“He’s beginning to annoy me,” was White’s famous quip upon being interviewed immediately after the enthralling contest, the fourth time Hendry had denied him at the last hurdle.
It was the end of an era and the beginning of a new one in many respects.
Along with others, the likes of O’Sullivan, McManus, Doherty, and Ebdon would begin to have even more of an influence at the business end of competitions in the coming campaigns.
White’s five-year stint of reaching World Championship finals, and losing them, was over.
Meanwhile, three former Crucible champions made their last appearances in Sheffield.
Alex Higgins and Cliff Thorburn, who together memorably fought out a close 1980 final, exited in the first round.
Higgins, once the sport’s leading star, had recovered from his ban from a few years earlier but was never the same player and lost to Doherty in the first round, while Thorburn unbelievably threw away a 9-2 lead to eventually suffer a 10-9 reverse against Nigel Bond.
The 1985 world champion Dennis Taylor also played his last tie at snooker’s spiritual home, losing to O’Sullivan.
Most of the other regulars from the decade before would bid farewell to the Crucible, and indeed to competitive action, soon after too.
It was the mid-1990s, and snooker was transforming into a sport of youthful, attacking exuberance.