Ever heard the one about the amateur who beat the best player ever in the biggest tournament of them all?
It sounds like something from Roy of the Rovers, but the truth was stranger than fiction at the Crucible Theatre on Tuesday when James Cahill, who doesn’t even own a snooker tour card, ousted three-time winner Ronnie O’Sullivan at the World Championships.
The 23-year-old did some early damage in their first session on Monday, taking a 5-4 overnight lead, before opening up an 8-5 cushion early on in the second.
O’Sullivan, who looked visibly jaded in his chair, made a century break and an 89 to roar back, and at 8-8 the contest was neatly poised.
But the Rocket missed a regulation pot on a pink to allow Cahill to clear up and go one frame from victory, and when he was given a chance in the next he took it, producing a nerve-less break of 53 to clinch it 10-8.
“I could barely stand up at the end,” he said when interviewed by the BBC afterwards. “I am not really sure what to say.
“I scored a good pressure 70 to go 6-5 up and after that I felt like he was the one under pressure. He didn’t want to lose to me.
“I have always believed in myself and that I can beat anyone on my day. I want to show what I can do now.”
Cahill was priced at 20/1 with the bookmakers to beat O’Sullivan, and the amateur – who doesn’t even have a world ranking – has understandably come in from his 1500/1 odds of what would be the most unlikely World Championship victory in history. His odds now stand at 50/1.
He was the first amateur to play at the Crucible, let alone win, following a highly-competitive run through the qualifying event.
O’Sullivan looked ill throughout and particularly so on Tuesday morning, but that should not take away from Cahill’s fantastic performance.
But where does that rank in the greatest shocks in snooker history?
Steve Davis vs Tony Knowles (1982)
Steve ‘The Nugget’ Davis had, just 12 months prior, captured his first world title at the Crucible.
But the venue’s curse on defending champions struck once more as Davis was downed by qualifier Tony Knowles, who raced into an 8-1 lead from their opening session.
Many expected Davis to rally the next day in this best-of-19 encounter, but the Bolton man held his nerve to complete the most remarkable 10-2 victory.
Judd Trump vs Rory McLeod (2017)
Judd Trump is widely regarded as one of snooker’s most naturally-gifted players, and he has completed two of the sport’s three-legged Triple Crown with victories in the UK Championship and The Masters.
He will, surely, win the Worlds one day, but it was not to be at the 2017 Championship when he was outfought by Rory McLeod, who was 1000/1 to lift the trophy prior to a ball being hit.
McLeod is a tough cookie who, while not blessed with natural ability or flair, crafted a decent career in the game, and he grinded out Trump 10-8 in a match that was something of a war of attrition.
The highest break in the match was just 77, but the underdog couldn’t care less: he had just completed one of the biggest shocks in snooker history.
Ding Junhui vs Michael Wasley (2014)
Many in the game expected Ding Junhui, the precociously-talented Chinaman, to dominate the world of snooker.
It hasn’t quite worked out that way, but the 2014 campaign was a brilliant one for Ding, who won five ranking events in a glittering year.
And so he had high hopes of doing some damage at the Crucible, although he hadn’t accounted for running into the journeyman pro, Michael Wasley.
Mind you, Ding led 6-3 after the first session, and surely he would have expected to progress with some comfort to the second round.
But Wasley had other ideas, bringing it back to 8-9 before making a century break and then winning the decider on the pink in a match that went on well past the midnight mark.