BBC Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Snooker Match That Drew Audience of 18.5 Million

Televised sport regularly draws in massive audiences today but 25 years ago, 18.5 million viewers in the United Kingdom tuned in for a snooker match that dragged on after midnight. The climax of the 1985 World Championship, known as the Black Ball Final, is being marked during this year’s event, as the two players, Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor, cued off against each other again on April 29 for a commemorative frame and a BBC documentary telling the story behind the game.

The popularity of snooker rose dramatically in the UK during the late 1970s and into the ‘80s, with the BBC’s live coverage of the World Championship and other major tournaments playing a major part. Steve Davis was a dominant force in the game through the ‘80s and in 1985 was on course to win his third World title in a row. In the final he took an early lead but Dennis Taylor, another leading player of the decade, fought back, leaving the championship to be decided not only by the final frame of the match but by the last ball left on the table.

Taylor potted the black to win what would be his only World Championship. Davis regained his crown in 1987, retaining it in the following two years, giving him a total of six title wins in the tournament. Taylor retired from competitive snooker in 2000 and is now a commentator and analyst for the BBC. Davis has also become a TV pundit but still plays in major competitions.

This put the re-match with Taylor in doubt because Davis rediscovered some of his old form during this year’s World Championship, knocking out reigning champion John Higgins to progress to the quarter-finals. The almost fairy-tale run was ended by one of the game’s current young guns, Neil Robertson, so tomorrow’s meeting with Taylor will go ahead.

The game came ninth in a poll of great sporting moments, conducted by Channel 4 in 2002, and brought in record audiences for BBC2. The channel will mark the event in a documentary called Eightyfive – The Final, to be broadcast on Sunday May 2.

The BBC’s coverage of this year’s championship includes live broadcasts and highlights on BBC2, both of which are also available on the BBC Red Button. The BBC Sport website has live streaming for the UK only.