Judd Trump, Ding Junhui and world number one Mark Selby were today beginning their challenges at the Betfair World Championship as the seeds continued to fall.
Former Crucible semi-finalist Mark Allen and four-time champion John Higgins were both bundled out on day three of the tournament, and Stephen Maguire was plunged into a battle to survive after falling 5-3 behind to Dechawat Poomjaeng.
Trump was starting today against Dominic Dale, Ding faced Alan McManus and Selby tackled newcomer Matthew Selt, with the star names all aiming to avoid following Allen, Higgins and two-time champion Mark Williams in crashing out in the first round.
Allen slumped to a 10-8 defeat against Mark King last night, while four-time champion Higgins crumbled 10-6 to Mark Davis.
After years of being a contender for snooker’s biggest prizes, Higgins fears his days of competing at the sharp end of snooker could be at an end.
Davis, the 40-year-old Sussex potter, was thrilled to beat the man who conquered all at the Crucible in 1998, 2007, 2009 and 2011.
Higgins said: “If he can keep on doing that he can go far in the tournament. It’s a different thing trying to win it but he can definitely go far.”
Davis clinched his place in the second round with a closing break of 87, and said: “To beat John here is definitely my best win.”
If Davis extends his run, he could face defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals.
Higgins said: “Ronnie’s going to be dangerous going into the second week of the Crucible because he knows better than anybody left in the tournament what it takes to win it. You’d have to make him favourite.”
Last year’s runner-up Ali Carter came from behind to edge 5-4 ahead of fellow Englishman Ben Woollaston.
A surprise result was in the offing as Thailand’s world number 70 Poomjaeng moved 5-3 ahead of Glasgow’s Maguire, a semi-finalist last year. That match was due to end this afternoon.
World number six Allen slumped 10-8 to Essex man Mark King.
King, 39, has endured a disappointing season but could make up for it in Sheffield and came from 8-6 behind to triumph 10-8, punching the air in delight as he left the arena.
Allen said: “I wouldn’t say it’s a setback but it’s disappointing obviously.”
King said: “On my day I can beat anyone and lose to anyone.
“I’ve just come here and tried to enjoy it for once and try to relax.
“I thought, ’If I get beaten I’ve still got a lovely wife and three kids to go home to’.
“Towards the end I was lucky I wasn’t throwing up, I was trying to breathe.
“When I potted game ball I nearly started crying.
“If I get pumped 13-0 in the next game, I won’t mind.
“I’ll probably snog my wife’s face off the moment I get home.”
Graeme Dott won the battle of former world champions as he saw off Peter Ebdon 10-6 last night, with the Scot edging through a tense battle that went to an unscheduled third session, finishing off with a century break to ensure Scotland will have at least one representative in the last 16.