Stephen Hendry looked to be heading out of the Betfred.com World Championship after a dismal performance against fellow Scot Stephen Maguire today.
The seven-time champion fell 7-1 behind in their quarter-final and the prospect of a defeat with a session to spare was looming.
He missed the pink so badly in the third frame it was cringeworthy and underlined his struggle. The crowd groaned, Hendry wore an embarrassed face, and Maguire potted pink and black to move 3-0 ahead.
With eight frames to be played tonight, and 13 the target for victory and a place in the semi-finals, Hendry knew he would need to win three to avoid complete humiliation.
After resounding wins over Stuart Bingham and last year’s champion John Higgins, there was growing support for Hendry to land an eighth Crucible title, 13 years after his seventh.
But aside from a break of 65 which gave him the seventh frame, the 43-year-old struggled badly throughout the session.
Maguire did not have to find peak form, and initially simply picked at the scraps Hendry was repeatedly leaving for him.
The 31-year-old had a handy break of 41 in the second frame and a slick 68 to move 4-0 in front.
The key early moment in the match came at the business end of frame three, when Hendry looked for all the world like he would clear the table.
On a break that had taken him to 52-52, he left himself the straightforward pink. It was slightly off straight but certainly not difficult, and yet Hendry missed it by inches wretchedly, with Maguire again feasting on the leftovers.
Hendry immediately left the arena with a baffled face, but after composing himself could only watch Maguire make a frame-winning run to move further ahead.
Maguire had a 117 break to lead 5-0, a 60 to make it six in a row, and after Hendry finally got on the board a rapid 95 inflicted the final blow of the session.
The statistics bore out the one-sided nature of the contest, with Hendry outscored 587-159. While Maguire had a pot success rate of 93%, Hendry was on a dismal 80%.