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banner Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 03:17 GMT
Back from the dead

BBC Sport's Clive Everton marvels at the stunning comeback by Fergal O'Brien at the UK Championship.

Fergal O'Brien's 9-8 victory over Mark Stevens, last year's runner-up, to reach the quarter-finals of the Liverpool Victoria UK Championship makes it in the annals of amazing recoveries.

This tenacious Dubliner is one of the game's most redoubtable fighters. Two years ago he bet the 1997 World Champion, Ken Doherty, 9-7 here from 7-3 adrift and went to the Crucible later in the season to achieve a 10-9 first round victory over James Wattana from three down with four to play.

O'Brien trailed Stevens 7-2 with the 23-year-old Welshman also going well with an initial 45 break in the 10th until he missed a routine black from its spot.

This proved to be a crucial turning point.

Fergal O'Brien
O'Brien makes a habit of making comebacks
O'Brien, almost resigned to losing, suddenly realised that he had everything to gain. He eventually won the frame on the pink and his confidence grew as he whittled away his deficit to level at 7-7.

Once he had given himself a realistic chance the psychological balance shifted again. Suddenly he had something to lose.


Two simple errors threw a lifeline to Stevens, who had been growing increasingly uneasy as his huge lead melted away.

Stevens regained a lead at 8-7 and, at 71-0 in the next frame, he was within a ball of winning, but O'Brien again produced his best with his back to the wall. He managed to win that frame on the black and from 61-0 in the decider he just held off the young Welshman's last gasp effort.

Dennis Taylor
Taylor produced a stunning recovery
There is no worse a feeling for a snooker player than having virtually won a match in his mind only to suddenly realise that he may yet lose.

Cliff Thorburn, the 1980 World Champion, described the feeling after losing from four up with five to play to Eddie Charlton in the 1978 Embassy World Championship: "The feeling came over me like a tidal wave as I was going to lose."

Commanding early leads are bad enough. Steve Davis, 7-0 up on Alex Higgins lost their 1983 UK final 16-15; in the 1985 World final he had led Dennis Taylor 8-0 only to lose in front of 18.5m BBC viewers 18-17 on the final black.

Terry Griffiths
Griffiths recovered well from his terrible moment
Perhaps worst of all are the defeats which arise after being only a frame off victory with several frames in hand.

Thorburn bade farewell to the Crucible in 1994 after losing 10-9 to Nigel Bond from 9-2 up; Mike Hallett will never forget losing the 1991 Benson and Hedges Masters final 9-8 to Stephen Hendry after leading 7-0 and 8-2.

But Terry Griffiths did manage to rise above losing 9-8 to Rex Williams in the first round of the 1978 UK Championship after leading 8-2; he won the World title six months later.

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See also:

26 Nov 00 |  UK Championship Snooker
Hann's big break
25 Nov 00 |  UK Championship Snooker
Hendry out for Davis' records
24 Nov 00 |  UK Championship Snooker
Discipline is blueprint for Dyson
22 Nov 00 |  UK Championship Snooker
High, wide and Hann-some
21 Nov 00 |  UK Championship Snooker
Everton on the foreign brigade
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