World number one Mark Williams recovered from a potential pre-Crucible crisis to reach the last 16 of the Daily Record Players Championship in Glasgow tonight.
The world champion defeated Liverpool’s Rod Lawler 5-4 but should have been faced with a major headache before the defence of his world title in Sheffield later this month.
Lawler had numerous opportunities to book a third-round meeting with Irish Masters runner-up Mark King, building up a 46-0 lead in the decider.
But after cueing superbly earlier in the game to make breaks of 81, 105, 102 and 65 to lead 4-3, the world number 53 could not sink the vital balls.
Instead, Williams – without a tournament victory since his LG Cup triumph at Preston last October – rode his luck and hit back to snatch victory on the final black.
“For the first four frames, Rod played as well against me as anyone has ever done,” said father-to-be Williams.
“The last frame was all about pressure. It was just a matter of who was going to fall over the line.
“I could even have missed the last pink,” added Williams, whose girlfriend Jo is expecting the couple’s first child on the eve of the world championship.
“Sheffield is on the mind of all the top players,” he agreed.
“Normally when I’ve not done well in this tournament it’s not been too much of a problem.
“But because I haven’t got much match practice behind me, I will be trying harder than normal to do well here.”
However, if Williams’ form dips again in his next match King is well prepared to take advantage.
He has won two matches in Glasgow so far and maintained the form he showed in Dublin last month.
The Romford left hander reached the last 16 with a 5-3 win over UK champion Matthew Stevens, who has not won a match since beating Stephen Hendry in the final at York – a run of five tournaments.
Dad-of-two King believes the birth of Stevens’ first child Freddie has had a detrimental effect on his form.
“It’s not easy when you have children, and maybe Matthew has been finding that out. They can be hard work,” added the Essex left-hander.
Williams also has sleepless nights to look forward to but insists: “I’ve spoken to Matthew about it and I don’t think the baby is to blame. Like me, he is playing well in practice; he’s just not been able to bring it to matches.”
Glaswegian Graeme Dott has never looked back since smashing up his old cue after an early exit from the Welsh Open back in January.
He reached the quarter-finals in Dublin and today put out Hong Kong’s Marco Fu 5-3.
“That’s the best game I’ve played in for a while,” smiled Larkhall-based Dott.
“I would seriously have quit the game at the start of the season if I could have done anything else. I hated the game; I hated practising and I hated coming to tournaments.
“I still don’t enjoy practising for three or four hours a day but I’ve got my appetite and enjoyment back for playing.”
Dott now plays Irish Masters winner Peter Ebdon or Stuart Bingham for a place in the quarter-finals.