HE went down fighting, in characteristic and familiar style – but almost unthinkably Steve Davis is for now off the professional tour after 36 years.

The six-time world champion lost his World Championship qualifier 10-8 to Craig Steadman at around 12.40am at Ponds Forge in Sheffield in the early hours of Friday morning.

It had been a real slog throughout, with at times in the latter stages with the nerves shredded both men barely able to construct a 30 break.

But with the 56-year-old Davis putting Steadman under huge pressure, coming back from 9-5 to 9-8, and down to the final colours in frame 18, the world No80 just about fell over the line.

Steadman, 31, knew exactly what was at stake in match that was very important to his own ambitions of reaching the Crucible for the first time.

He had spoken on the eve of the make or break contest for his illustrious opponent with a record 81 titles as being “public enemy No1” and likely to find “burning effigies” of himself if he booted Davis off the tour.

But the Farnworth player had his own goals, and making any allowances for one of snooker’s favourite sons was not high on the list of priorities.

Davis is of course now at a crossroads, and may yet feel differently to the way he did even a fortnight ago at Preston now this is not theory but reality.

In town for an exhibition during the PTC Grand Finals, Davis insisted then that should the worst happen he would play on, either through Q-School, or the European Tour and Asian Tour events, or both.

The reason given was that he had vowed to father Bill to still be a professional at the age of 60, so there would be nothing for it but to get back on tour.

Davis was insistent that even playing as he is now, at a level well below that which brought him so many titles and triumphs, he was better than many of those getting on tour via other routes.

But it was in the top 64 on prize money earned in the past two years that he had to finish, and that mission eluded him.

There will of course be those who point to his decision to skip the UK Championship in favour of taking the money to head for the jungle and appear on reality show ‘I’m A Celebrity’.

The truth is Davis, while still a fiercely competitive animal on the table, has been playing for fun for years.

His on-table earnings would barely cover the expenses of being on tour, with other income including from the BBC as a pundit and appearances and exhibitions far more significant, not to mention the reported £240,000 from ITV.

If Davis had really put his tour place above all else, he wouldn’t have done it – simple as that. But most would say the sport’s finest ambassador has earned the right after all that time.

He still regularly travels all over the world to promote snooker, and unlike others – notably John Parrott – who saw falling off the tour as the right time to go, Davis had indicated otherwise.

So the career may not be over but for now at least the label of ‘professional snooker player’ is no longer applicable.

But until he declares otherwise, no one would put it past Davis doing something extraordinary at Q-School or picking up the money he needs from events around Europe to sneak back on via that supplementary list next summer.

The days of wild-cards for the biggest names are increasingly frowned upon by a democratic regime, even one headed by Davis’s manager and friend Barry Hearn.

So if he is to get back on, it will have to be playing snooker and beating young and hungry rivals.