Snooker: Fans stay up as Dott makes history

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The Independent Online

Graeme Dott says he supports Rangers so fervently that he has a phobia about touching anything green. This adds to the travails of life on the baize but the 28-year-old Glaswegian's 12 years of slog on the professional circuit were all made worthwhile at 1am yesterday when he beat Peter Ebdon 18-14 at The Crucible, Sheffield, to lift the greatest prize in his sport as the new world champion.

In doing so, he has also, after all, guaranteed silverware at Ibrox this season, Rangers' worst in memory. Dott will parade his trophy there at half-time on Sunday before the game against Heart of Midlothian. The Rangers manager, Alex McLeish, sent a personal message of congratulations yesterday. "You deprived me of my beauty sleep but it was worth it," he said.

McLeish was among nearly three million people who stayed up to watch the finale live on BBC2, handing the channel a massive 53 per cent audience share in Britain at the time. The viewing figures peaked at 4.9m earlier, as Ebdon stormed back into contention from 15-7 down to 15-13 before finally succumbing.

It is not especially instructive to dwell on how the figures compare to another epic final, in 1985 between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis. Back then the final session drew 18.5m, but that was a different era, before multi-channel television. This year's final was still watched by more people than the Arsenal-Villarreal Champions' League semi-final first leg, which was available only via Sky.

When the brouhaha about Ebdon and Dott being grinders who took 74 minutes to complete one frame (a record) has subsided, the conclusion to this year's championship will be that the final was rarely attractive, but it was dramatic. Ebdon put Dott under such intense pressure in the evening that Dott admitted afterwards: "I thought it was slipping away. I was gone." He said he "just couldn't explain" how he managed the clearance for 17-14 to set up victory. No matter. He did. He has a title at last, his first ever.

The victory lifts him to No 6 in next season's rankings, as Stephen Hendry climbs back to No 1. The world title has now been won by eight different men in the last 10 years. This is a sport with genuine strength in depth. It still has its ills, and will take time to rebuild in the post-tobacco age, and from the snooze headlines of the past few days. But its capacity to grip millions is still there, and better late than never.

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