Here is the second part of our countdown of the 20 greatest moments of the Masters, from 10 to 6...
(10) McMANUS ENDS HENDRY DOMINANCE (1994)
By 1994, Stephen Hendry had become the greatest winning machine snooker had ever seen, combining a frightening attacking game with the inner steel to cope under the most intense pressure the sport could produce.
He coasted into a sixth straight Wembley final, having won 23 matches at the Masters and still yet to be beaten. His opponent was a fellow Scot, Alan McManus, well regarded and consistently challenging in tournaments but yet to win a major title.
It was McManus who made the better start, opening a 3-0 lead before Hendry pegged him back and then hit the front at 7-5. Logic and past experience pointed strongly to an eventual Hendry victory but McManus, tough and tactically astute, held on and forced a decider.
On so many occasions previously, Hendry had got in first in a deciding frame and killed it off in a single visit. However, he sat this one out as McManus sank a red and made a 76 break to finally end Hendry’s imperious Wembley reign.
For once, the great man had been denied at the death as McManus savoured the best moment of his career. He would go on to win two ranking titles and, still playing competitively, is currently one of the most respected TV analysts in the game, not least because, as he proved 20 years ago, he has been there, done that when it matters.
(9) TAYLOR’S LATE SHOW THWARTS HIGGINS (1987)
Dennis Taylor and Alex Higgins were Northern Irishmen of contrasting temperaments but each highly competitive. Higgins had been Masters champion in 1978 and 1981 but coming into the 1987 event Taylor had won only one match in nine previous appearances, a first round encounter the previous year.
With Taylor beating Cliff Thorburn 6-5 in the semi-finals and Higgins cutting a swathe through the draw after coming from 4-2 down to beat Terry Griffiths 5-4 in the first round, the two found themselves meeting in what became a memorable final.
Trailing 8-5, Taylor left the arena and was told by his friend, Trevor East of ITV Sport, the man to whom Taylor had famously wagged his finger after winning the world title two years earlier, that Higgins’s circle were already celebrating victory.
This was all Taylor needed to hear to summon one last effort. He returned to win the last four frames and clinch a 9-8 victory, one which was almost as dramatic and satisfying as his epic Crucible triumph.
Three years later Taylor and Higgins had a furious bust-up while playing for the same team at the World Cup, where Higgins infamously told his compatriot he would ‘have him shot’ if he ever returned to Northern Ireland.
(8) HENDRY COMEBACK FLOORS HALLETT (1991)
In the 1991 final, Stephen Hendry’s unbeaten run in the Masters, which encompassed 11 matches, looked as if it would come to an end when Mike Hallett produced the finest session of his career to lead 7-0 heading into the evening’s play.
Hallett, who had won the World Doubles title with Hendry, returned to his hotel where the BBC’s coverage was still ongoing and heard John Spencer comment that if Hendry could win the first two frames of the evening the final was not necessarily over. Hendry duly pulled back to 7-2.
Even so, Hallett looked set to win the title when 8-2 up and clearing the colours but missed the pink and not only lost the frame but had to contend with an interval and the sense that Hendry had gained a second wind.
And so Hendry, the best pressure player the game has ever seen, recovered, although not with his trademark heavy scoring – his highest break from 8-2 down was just 41. Instead, he scrapped it out in a series of close frames before completing the comeback to win 9-8 and secure a hat-trick of Masters titles.
Hallett’s mood was summed up by his quip late in the match: “Does anyone have a rope?” Worse still, on returning home he discovered he had been burgled.
(7) DOHERTY’S MAXIMUM DISAPPOINTMENT (2000)
Ken Doherty is a refreshing mix of genial man and fiercely determined player who learned his trade in the snooker-stronghold of the Republic of Ireland and became world champion in 1997.
He finished runner-up to John Higgins in the 1999 Masters and a year later faced Matthew Stevens in the final, which would be remembered for one shot – a shot Doherty will never forget.
Things were looking grim for Doherty after Stevens built a 9-5 lead, leaving him just one frame from victory. The picture suddenly seemed rosier, though, when Doherty potted 15 reds and 15 blacks and set about the colours in an attempt to complete only the second maximum break in Masters history. A sports car worth roughly £90,000 was waiting for anyone who made the magical 147.
There were nearly 3,000 people inside Wembley Conference Centre plus the millions watching at home. Even Doherty, a great pressure player, was not immune to nerves and found his arms starting to shake as he cleared the colours. With just one ball to go he was stood behind a black he would have potted in any other scenario and jawed it, making him the first player to miss the black on 140 on television.
To complete a miserable night, he lost the final 10-8 but it’s not the result people remember, it’s the missed black, a ball which he admits has haunted his dreams ever since.
(6) SPENCER BEATS REARDON ON RE-SPOT (1975)
John Spencer was a specialist in firsts. He won the world title when the tournament returned to a knockout format in 1969 after several years of challenge matches. He also won the first Crucible-hosted World Championship in 1977.
Before this, he faced down his closest rival, Ray Reardon, in the first Masters final in 1975. The standard was not high but the drama quotient was as the two most successful players of the 1970s duelled out a 17 frame thriller.
Reardon led 8-6 before Spencer forced a decider. It looked as if Reardon would prevail when he needed blue, pink and black for victory but he over-screwed ideal position to be left with a missable pink. It didn’t help that the B&H hospitality girls, perhaps not fully versed in the nuances of matchplay snooker, assumed he couldn’t miss and began leaving their seats to get ready for the presentation.
Reardon missed the pink. Spencer potted it but missed the black. Reardon sank it and the scores were tied. A re-spotted black would decide the title.
The first chance at a pot went to Reardon but he missed from distance and Spencer brought the drama to a conclusion by knocking the black in to win 9-8. From 39 Masters finals, 11 have gone to deciding frame finishes.
Later today: we count down from 5 to 3.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.