Last season’s Crucible finalist Peter Ebdon had little to smile about this afternoon after he was surprisingly dumped out of the Northern Ireland Trophy in Belfast this afternoon.
Playing in his first competitive match of the 2006/7 season, the 888.com World Championship runner-up was beaten 5-3 by Welshman Dominic Dale at the Waterfront Hall despite some solid break-building.
Wellingborough potter Ebdon, the world No 7 and 2002 world champion, knocked in breaks of 128, 61 and 60.
But Dale, sporting a bright pink shirt, was also in top form and, with runs of 104, 62, 59, 56, 52 and 45 securing his path into the last 16.
“Beating Peter is a big scalp for me, but I feel I’m back playing at a level I’m happy with,” revealed Dale, who has been working hard on his technique during the summer.
“I’ve been striking the ball really well and working hard in private. Against some players you feel very comfortable when you’re 4-2 ahead, but against Peter you can never relax.
“I’ve lacked a lot of self-belief in the past, but I’m a tremendous snooker player and why shouldn’t I believe in myself?
“I’ve won a major tournament and winning boosts your confidence. I’ve won a couple of frames I shouldn’t have done in that match, but I’ve also made a couple of tremendous clearances.”
Current Masters and Grand Prix champion John Higgins is also through to the last 16 after a far from routine victory over Gloucester’s Robert Milkins.
The Wizard of Wishaw was forced to come back from 3-2, before snatching a 5-3 win.
And the Scot openly admitted his passage through to the next round had looked precarious after Milkins had gone close to going 4-2 ahead.
“It was looking very dodgy at the point and Robert had a chance to go 4-2 in front,” revealed Higgins, the world No 4, who was playing with a new cue.
“It was important I won that sixth frame to make it 3-3. I’m playing with a new cue and it took me time to adjust out there.
“Sometimes you begin to doubt yourself, but I played well enough.”
World No 4 Higgins had breaks of 73, 78, 45, 47 and 40 to keep his name in the hat for this year’s crown, and will now play either Chinese prodigy Ding Junhui, the current UK champion, or Nottingham’s Anthony Hamilton on Thursday evening.
“I thought I played ok and maybe I tried a bit harder here because this is a ranking event,” added Higgins.
“Last year this wasn’t a ranking event and when you are 3-1 down you are sometimes more inclined to throw the towel in.
“But I’m in the next round and looking forward to the season.”
Welshman Ryan Day defeated last season’s Grand Prix semi-finalist Barry Hawkins, 5-1 to go through, compiling breaks of 73, 70, 40, 43 and 89 on the way to victory.