John Higgins today showed he was feeling the pressure of trying to retain his 888.com World Championship after squandering a promising position against Wales’ Ryan Day.
Higgins, looking to become only the third back-to-back winner at the Crucible, led 5-3 overnight and quickly extended his advantage to three frames this afternoon in the last 16 clash.
But the 32-year-old then lost the next three frames in a row, punching the table in frustration after the 11th frame and then flinging the white down the table after being pegged back to 6-6.
Higgins’ mood was not improved by Day taking the 13th frame with a break of 51 to lead for the first time in the match.
But the Scot finally rediscovered his touch to take the next two frames with breaks of 99 and 54 to edge back into the lead.
However, Day was looking a far better player than the one who trailed 4-0 in yesterday’s opening session and a run of 93 ensured the 28-year-old ended the day level at 8-8 ahead of tomorrow morning’s decisive session.
Rotherham’s Shaun Murphy, winner in 2005, could no doubt sympathise with Higgins after finding himself 6-2 down to Ali Carter after the opening session of their second round match.
Murphy had reached the semi-final or better in six of his last seven tournaments and beat Dave Harold 10-3 in the opening round, but was completely out of sorts against Carter.
The 25-year-old managed just one break above 50 in the session while Carter enjoyed runs of 97 and 100 to take a surprise lead.
Stephen Hendry also enjoyed a surprise 6-2 lead over Ding Junhui in their eagerly anticipated second round clash.
Chasing an eighth world title, Hendry made a flying start with a break of 124 in the opening frame against Chinese superstar Ding, who spent most of the frame with his head down and eyes closed.
Ding took the next frame to level the scores but a break of 61 gave Hendry the third frame and the Scot then took a scrappy fourth as well to lead 3-1 at the mid-session interval.
Both players had come through final-frame deciders in the previous round, Hendry beating Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen and Ding defeating Grand Prix winner Marco Fu.
It looked as though that had taken more of a toll on Ding than Hendry, who won the next three frames for good measure, culminating in a break of 84 to go 6-1 clear.
Ding was enduring a torrid time and had managed a high break of just 26 in those opening seven frames, and it was vital for the Sheffield-based 21-year-old to win the final frame of the session, which he did with a break of 80.
The first second round match to finish features Peter Ebdon against Mark King, Ebdon taking a 9-6 lead into tonight’s final session.