5) SHAUN MURPHY 13, MATTHEW STEVENS 12 (Quarter-finals, 2007)
For all Jimmy White’s many achievements, people always tend to bring up his six world final defeats when they mention him. Matthew Stevens, a fine player and winner of two of the game’s top three titles, is unfortunately destined to be similarly remembered for his nearlyman status.
By 2007, he had lost two world finals from winning positions and three close semi-finals. In the quarter-finals, he needed to beat Murphy to remain in the top 16. Leading 12-7 surely nothing could go wrong?
What followed was a slow burning drama as thrilling as any the Crucible has had to offer.
As Murphy, surely himself believing his challenge had ended, started to swing his cue at the balls the mental scars of earlier close defeats re-opened in Stevens’s mind.
He missed his chance to win 13-7, sat out a couple of big breaks from Murphy, lost another close frame and, all of a sudden, it was 12-11.
A grimly scrappy frame followed and it became clear that Stevens could not win. He lost it and failed to pot a ball in the decider.
Stevens was thus relegated from the top 16. He hasn’t qualified this year.