As the opening round of the PDC World Darts Championship gets under way at the Alexandra Palace tonight – the stage for next month’s Masters – snooker enjoyed a rare double of its own as two maximum 147 breaks were compiled on the same day for the first time in history.
There had already been three perfect frames in the last three weeks following the successes of Mike Dunn, David Gray and Ricky Walden and adding another brace has ensured a mad month of top drawer baize bashing.
First, Matthew Stevens completed his maiden 147 break of his professional career in the final frame of his victory over Michael Wesley while Ding Junhui repeated the feat only a couple of hours later in a similar whitewash triumph over another amateur in Brandon Winstone.
Amazingly, it means that, in the last few weeks alone, there have been only three fewer maximums made than the entire 1980s decade.
Welshman Stevens’ previous association with the famous break was when he watched in anguish at Ken Doherty’s missed last black in the final of the 2000 Masters.
However, he can now join a very exclusive club that includes only Mark Williams as players that have constructed a 147 from Wales.
Ding Junhui, meanwhile, recorded the third max of his short career and, at just 24, it has to be asked whether he can now go on a run to catch Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry at the top of the record table with 11 and 10 respectively.
China’s Ding is probably the most likely to come anywhere near those remarkable standards as his break-building skills are generally perceived to be one of the most efficient in the game.
Nevertheless, the duo’s heroics were not enough to keep them in PTC 12 for that much longer as both were sent crashing in the last 32 in Sheffield.
In a bizarre turnaround in scheduling, this event will see the field whittled down to the last 16 in the city of snooker before those cueists jet off to Munich in the new year to complete the tournament.
David Grace was the first man to establish his need for a plane ticket after beating Stevens 4-1, the Englishman making the fourth round at a PTC for the second successive tournament.
UK Championship semi-finalist Walden continued his excellent form by edging Liu Song and Gerard Greene before comfortably seeing off Ding in the third round.
Mark Allen has been equally buoyed by his runner-up prize in York last Sunday and fired in five centuries en route to the last 16 – making that a total of nine tons the Ulsterman has hit in his last four encounters.
Allen will take on Mike Dunn in Germany after the man who began this 147 frenzy continued his resurgence with a trio of 4-1 wins, one of which against Mark Williams.
Power Snooker champion Martin Gould knocked out Jimmy White 4-2 in the last 32 after the Whirlwind had earlier come through two deciding frame thrillers while David Gilbert completed important victories over Ireland’s David Morris and Stephen Lee to also advance.
It means that the Englishman is all but assured a place among the eight players that will automatically gain their tour card for next season as a result of high performances in the PTC series in this campaign.
Finally, Xiao Guodong of China beat Robert Milkins 4-2 to progress while Joe Perry beat Mark Davis, who had earlier dispatched of world champion John Higgins, 4-1 just before midnight.
The bottom half of the last 16 places will be played out tomorrow with the likes of Shaun Murphy, Stephen Maguire and Ken Doherty involved.
The full results and draw can be viewed by clicking here.