Anxiously, slowly, Doherty became the first player from the Republic of Ireland to become world champion but not before Hendry had attempted to surpass even his feats of escapology. From 15-7, he won five successive frames so that when the challenger finally crossed the line he looked like a hunted man who had found a hiding place.
The result brought Doherty pounds 210,000 and third place in next year's rankings, ending Hendry's hopes of becoming the first man to take the modern World Championship seven times.
It was desperately tense stuff that was epitomised by the 27th frame. Doherty, his eyes wide with nerves and his forehead shiny, had it seemingly in the bag when he had a 20-point lead with only 18 on the table. But he managed to cannon off the blue and pot the pink for a foul. The frame was tossed away with that shot.
Had he lost the 28th the deficit would have been down to two. Instead Doherty's break of 61 was enough, just, and he staggered over the winning line. Hendry's fightback had been brave and brilliant, but it had been accomplished with the match all but gone, pressure off.
Earlier, not even the presence of Naseem Hamed, who had driven Darren Morgan to distraction in the quarter-finals, had not helped the holder. The boxer was dressed in black yesterday in contrast to the silver coat of his last visit and the relative anonymity reflected the performance of his friend Hendry.
He was the player who had won 29 consecutive matches at the World Championship in name only. The remorseless force was absent. At one stage, Hendry hid his eyes to avoid looking at the damage of a dreadful break-off and there were not many occasions before his late comeback when he would have been happy to study his work.
The man who had built an imposing aura as the player who hardly ever missed was replaced instead by a battle-weary and nervous shadow who appeared to be a mistake waiting to happen.
The scenes as the players waited to go out had been indicative on the first day of the final. Doherty had joked with a policeman and put his tongue out at the television camera, the epitome of relaxation. Conversely, Hendry had been yawning and played like his cue weighed a ton. Yesterday there were no pre-play hints of tiredness from the champion. He stood leaning against a stair-rail, his eyes staring into the distance. He looked like what he was, a man needing all the concentration he could muster.
Hendry in that mood is enough to intimidate anyone although Doherty was still riding on the previous day's play when he took 10 out of the last 13 frames and his first pot was a double into the centre pocket. It was a shot to nothing but it demonstrated his confidence.
The first impression was that Doherty would needed it all because Hendry began brightly, taking the first and third frames with breaks of 58 and 92. But it was Doherty who got to the first interval with his tail up. Visits of 35 and 46 restored his advantage to six while deflating Hendry as if someone had stuck a pin in him. When he came out of the dressing- room again, the doubts of the previous evening walked down the stairs with him. His first chance, a long red, was missed by quite a margin and other pots found the jaws rather than the pocket. Sometimes when you lead by the distance that Doherty had you stop to look over your shoulder and lose momentum, but not if your opponent keeps gift-wrapping opportunity after opportunity.
At 15-7 the match was almost over, beyond even Hendry's charge that took him past Jimmy White's 14-8 lead in 1992 for his second title. His pride was still with him, however, if not his full genius and he hit a defiant 137 clearance. The fusillade that followed from the champion was brave but futile. A brilliant flash of memory.
EMBASSY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (Sheffield) Final: K Doherty (Irl) bt S Hendry (Sco) 18-12. Frame scores (Doherty first): 67-7 5-117 (117 break) 0-106 (106 break) 77-13 78-9 75-51 69-11 0-122 (122 break) 12-76 89-32 62-55 57-43 65-13 85-50 47-74 60-28 23-70 71-24 4-110 86-0 85-16 59-45 0-137(137 break) 12-75 30-61 0-114 (110 break) 57-61 82-23 69-19 71-49.Reuse content