Ken Doherty will go into action at the 2003 Embassy World Championship later today two frames behind Graeme Dott.
Just when Dubliner Doherty expected to go on and build an overnight lead last night, Dott recovered his poise to take the final two frames of the night.
Generally. the middle Sunday of the 2003 Embassy World Championship won’t go down in the history of the tournament as a day of riveting snooker.
But the quality is expected to rise today as the remaining four places in the quarter-finals will be decided.
There are already two Scots into the last eight – Stephen Hendry and John Higgins – and the number could double if Alan McManus and Graeme Dott do the business against Ken Doherty and Marco Fu.
Paul Hunter will attempt to swell the home contingent to three by joining English rivals Peter Ebdon and Stephen Lee in the next round.
And the competition could have a real continental feel about it should Hong Kong’s number one Fu and Quinten Hann of Australia negotiate their second-round matches.
Dott, Fu, Hunter and Mark Williams start favourites to reach the quarters.
The latter trio all hold four-frame leads while Dott has the hardest task of holding on to a 9-7 cushion against Doherty, the solitary Irishman left in contention.
Glaswegian Dott held off a battling recovery by the 1997 world champion when he saw a 7-2 lead evaporate in a couple of hours.
But just when Dubliner Doherty expected to go on and build an overnight lead, Dott recovered his poise to take the final two frames of the night.
And that advantage could be decisive when the match enters its closing stages this afternoon.
Doherty, once beaten 6-5 in the Scottish Open semi-finals by the tenacious Rangers fan, won’t give up.
But he knows he must add weight to his scoring as his best break so far is a disappointing 68.
World number 27 Fu is proving far from a one-game wonder. He stunned title favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last round and now has McManus where he wants him – four frames behind!.
McManus has not reached the semi-finals at the Crucible since 1993 and for the past two seasons has lost in the first round.
The world number 15 can only improve his dismal world championship record by taking seven of the final nine frames. A tall order against the former world amateur champion in such determined mood.
Melbourne-based Hann, the first Aussie playing in the top flight since Eddie Charlton, enjoyed a great start against Welshman Williams.
But then it all went pear-shaped for Hann as the provisional world number one hit six of the best to end the opening session of three with a 6-2 lead.
It’s hard to see Hann making any real in-roads into the deficit as Williams is playing for a quarter-final showdown with seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry.
Paul Hunter was the one bright spark to light up the Crucible yesterday.
In arguably the tie of the last 16, the British Open champion from Leeds ripped apart 2000 Embassy finalist Matthew Stevens 6-2.
He had some good fortune as well, fluking the pink at the end of frame seven to lead 5-2.
But Hunter, attempting to become the first Yorkshireman since Joe Johnson in 1986 to lift the trophy, had no trouble scoring the big breaks.
His best was 110 in frame four and he also made further runs of 55, 50, 45, 54 and 58.
Hunter’s performance showed the players can compile the breaks despite claims by John Higgins on Saturday – after talking to a table technician – that the pockets had been tightened by 1/16th of an inch.
However, tournament director Mike Ganley insists: “The templates have not changed at all. Nothing is different to any other tournament this season.
“The table-fitter did not tell John the pockets were smaller. They had a conversation and it sounds like they were at cross purposes.
“I’ve spoken to John since and he’s happy with my explanation.
“We endeavour to give the players the best playing conditions at every event so there would be no reason to reduce the pocket sizes without telling them.”
Embassy World Championship order of play for Monday, April 28:
10am: Paul Hunter (Eng) v Matthew Stevens (Wal); Hunter leads 6-2. Mark Williams (Wal) v Quinten Hann (Aus), Williams leads 6-2.
2.30pm: Ken Doherty (Ire) v Graeme Dott (Sco), Dott leads 9-7; Alan McManus (Sco) v Marco Fu (Hkg), Fu leads 10-6.
6.45pm: Hunter v Stevens to a finish, Williams v Hann to a finish.