The latest chapter in a series of articles looking back at each campaign from the Crucible era.
After Mark Selby’s maiden world triumph in May, it was just over a month later when things got going again with the start of the 2014/15 snooker season.
Once more, the calendar was packed for eleven months with a string of ranking events, the PTC minor-ranking event series, and various invitationals taking players all around the world.
The first big tournament of the new campaign took place towards the end of June when the players returned to China for the Wuxi Classic.
Neil Robertson was the reigning champion and it was around this period when it seemed like the Australian inevitably began a new term as its first winner.
So it proved again in 2014 as the Melbourne man edged Joe Perry 10-9 amid emotional scenes in which Robertson felt that he might just have denied his close friend his biggest opportunity to claim a ranking event victory.
Perry lost the last two frames to be denied in a decider, but around nine months later the Englishman redeemed himself by coming from three frames behind to deny Mark Williams success in the PTC Grand Finals.
Robertson, meanwhile, became the new world number one and flew home for the Australian Goldfields Open in July with confidence high in the hope of claiming a first glory on home soil.
Twelve months earlier, the 2010 world champion advanced all the way to the final only to be denied by Marco Fu, and unfortunately it was to be the same outcome again as Judd Trump spoiled the party Down Under courtesy of a 9-5 scoreline in the title-deciding contest.
For Trump, despite having at one point held the world number one spot, it marked a first ranking event victory in almost two years and it would be another two before his next would come around as the young Englishman struggled to produce his A-game on a consistent basis.
The 2014/15 snooker season was, however, arguably the spell in which Trump’s thrilling rivalry with Ronnie O’Sullivan truly kicked up a notch.
The pair had already encountered each other in high-profile situations, including in a magnificent final of the 2011 Antwerp Open when they traded one big break after another before Trump emerged with the PTC trophy.
Trump also beat the Rocket en route to securing that year’s UK Championship, while O’Sullivan repeated the favour in the semi-finals of the 2013 World Championship when he captured a fifth Crucible crown.
When the duo crossed paths in the final of the prestigious Champion of Champions in 2014 fireworks were predicted, and neither of them disappointed as they traded six tons between them.
After building a commanding lead, O’Sullivan survived a late onslaught to prevail 10-7 and emerge as the Champion of Champions for a second straight season, but more was to come.
Less than a month later, O’Sullivan and Trump were involved in another showdown with silverware on the line, on this occasion at the Barbican Centre in York for UK Championship honours.
Similar to what happened in Coventry, O’Sullivan orchestrated a huge cushion and appeared to be coasting to the winning line when he led 9-4, moving to within just a frame of glory.
But Trump let go of the shackles, reeling off a frantic five frames on the bounce to force an unlikely shoot out for the £150,000 champion’s cheque.
O’Sullivan was clearly rattled, but he somehow held his nerve to clinch the final frame and a first UK title for seven years – in doing so, providing an emphatic response to his World Championship final collapse to Mark Selby earlier in 2014.
Part three of O’Sullivan and Trump’s wonder battles during the 2014/15 snooker season occurred at the World Grand Prix in March, and just like their previous finals it was another belter.
The usual pattern continued, with the former pulling away only to be drawn back in by the eager hotshot, and this time Trump wasn’t to be denied as he won the last six frames to overturn a 7-4 deficit and complete a famous victory that would have huge implications on their developing head-to-head.
That rivalry was expected to continue in Sheffield when they were in line to cross paths again in the semi-finals of the 2015 World Snooker Championship.
Trump played his part, but O’Sullivan failed to reach the single table set-up for the first time in four years after suffering a shock reverse against Stuart Bingham in the last eight.
The latter was in tears after dispatching the favourite but it was only the beginning, as the player known as Ballrun conjured up an enormous effort to deny Trump in a classic semi-final clash that ended 17-16.
Out of all the players on the circuit, Bingham perhaps represented the best example of how the Barry Hearn era rewarded effort and persistence.
The Basildon potter had been a professional since 1995 but it was only since 2011 that his career really took off and he began to be considered among the game’s best competitors.
Bingham loved playing snooker, and it didn’t matter if that meant he had to fly out to Asia for nondescript PTC events – he won a record four tournaments on the Asian PTC series – because he just wanted to compete.
The more opportunities he had, the better he seemed to get, highlighted earlier in the 2014/15 snooker season when he denied reigning Shanghai Masters champion Ding Junhui in the semi-final before a 10-3 thumping of Mark Allen that earned him a second ranking title.
Few expected Bingham to feature in the latter stages in Sheffield, yet he was in the form of his life and only Shaun Murphy stood in his way of World Championship glory.
An entertaining showdown was played in good spirit and with plenty of sizable contributions – the pair boasting 30 half-century breaks between them across the 33 frames played.
When Murphy restored parity at 15-15, it looked as though the Masters champion was going to repeat his 2005 world success, but the underdog composed himself and compiled a succession of gutsy breaks to emerge as a the deserved 18-15 champion before memorably quipping, “winner winner, chicken dinner”.
Earlier in the event, reigning champion Mark Selby had become the latest person to succumb to the Curse of the Crucible when he lost to debutant Anthony McGill in the last 16.
Selby had been in good form heading into Sheffield, capturing both the German Masters and China Open titles to reestablish himself as the world number one player – a position he wouldn’t surrender again for more than four years.
Most of the other events were shared among several other familiar names, with John Higgins winning the first Welsh Open to be staged at the Motorpoint Arena and Ricky Walden denying Mark Allen in the final of the International Championship.
Stephen Maguire triumphed in the Six Red World Championship while Welshman Michael White earned himself back-to-back victories in the Shoot Out and the Indian Open.
One of the smaller events on the calendar – the invitational General Cup in Hong Kong – proved significant for Ali Carter as the Captain etched his name onto a trophy in his first outing back after recovering from chemotherapy-treated cancer.
Snooker had never been busier, and there was plenty more to come.
Featured photo credit: Monique Limbos