The score was 13-11 in the facsimile's favour, a result McManus, the 13th seed at The Crucible, described as the greatest of his career. Given that he removed the then world champion, John Parrott, last year it was a valuation of no little substance. 'Absolute nightmare,' was a description of the match, and that was by the winner. Davis, as ever, was dignity itself in defeat. In fact he looked the happier of the two.
If anyone had reason to be disappointed it was the six-times world champion. Throughout the second- round match he had been the laggard desperately clinging to his flying 22- year-old opponent and he was beaten just as it appeared he might be nudging ahead. From 12-9 down he had fought back to the brink of equality only to topple over the edge.
At 12-11 Davis needed only to pot a colour to leave McManus requiring snookers. Instead his attempt at a blue along the cushion, rattled in the jaws and then was spat back. Twenty- five behind, and with the weight of his admiration for Davis leaning on his cueing arm, McManus cleared up the colours.
'I thought I'd lost,' he said. 'My arm was shaking as I bent down to play the yellow and didn't stop until I got to the pink. By the end I was just trying to fall over the line.'
When the tape is so near for both players even simple pots are gripped with tension. Davis, never a flicker of emotion crossing his face, watched his downfall being played out before him, his mind racing in the cathedral- like hush over the blue he had missed. 'No shot off the cushion is easy,' he said, 'I'm not upset about missing it. You are allowed to miss balls in this championship.' He was convincing himself as much as everybody else.
'He was very strong,' Davis continued, 'always that bit in front. I kept at the job but it's always harder when you make a mistake when you're losing. I'm proud of myself for hanging in there so long and he has every reason to be proud for winning. It was a very good game.' The quality of the game was underlined by Davis's play. In the third frame he had recorded 144, which is the front-runner for the pounds 14,000 highest break prize, and there was little wrong with his form yesterday. McManus, until the enormity of what he was doing struck him, was simply better. Ahead 9-7 overnight, he stamped his authority on the proceedings with a 112 break in the opening frame of the session and was composed enough to visit the table later and return with scores of 79 and 52.
He will now meet Neal Foulds, a 13- 7 winner over Martin Clark and then Stephen Hendry is likely to be on the agenda in the semi-finals. 'I feel shattered now and I have to build myself up for the next match. I will kill myself to be mentally strong.'
If Jimmy White was ever likely to contemplate suicide it would have been after last year's final when he was swept aside by Hendry after leading 14-8. Most players would have been a confidence cripple after that experience; White seems merely more anxious to take the one significant title to elude him.
He reached the quarter-finals by beating Doug Mountjoy 13-6 and would have completed Davis's day if he had completed the potential 145 that was on the table in the final frame. Instead his break stuttered to a halt at 94. 'I was diabolical, terrible,' he said. 'I didn't play well but, with no disrespect to Doug, I didn't need to.'
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