Stephen Hendry beat Martin Gould 5-4 on the final black after a dramatic deciding frame in the last 32 of the China Open in Beijing.
Hendry took the lead in the encounter with a superb 135 century break and could have extended his lead in each of the next two frames only to find himself 2-1 behind.
The Scot didn’t let his missed chances affect him, though, and won both frames either side of the mid-session interval to recapture the lead at 3-2.
The seven-time world champion looked favourite to double his advantage for the first time but missed an inexcusable red in the sixth – a characteristic more associated with the later years of his glittering career.
Despite that, he recorded his fourth half century of the tie to move ahead at 4-3 only for Gould to subsequently notch up a 105 ton to force the decider.
With both players evidently feeling the pressure, a succession of chances went begging on either side before it seemed as if Hendry handed victory on a plate for his opponent after leaving the penultimate red over the pocket following a failed attempt at a pot along the top rail.
Somewhat controversially, the seven-time world champion immediately unscrewed his cue while walking back to his seat in dismay but whether or not this was an act of gamesmanship or simply out of frustration is unclear – the latter more probable.
Either way, Gould unbelievably rattled the final red which was his frame and match ball and Hendry quickly had to screw his cue back together to compose himself for a final onslaught.
This time, the 43 year-old made no mistake and mopped up all the colours for a morale-boosting triumph over a Top 16 player.
What will be more rewarding for Hendry is the fact that he played quite well as the important World Championship qualifiers approach in a couple of weeks.
Hendry will play Neil Robertson for a place in the quarter-finals after the Australian – runner-up in Galway at the PTC Grand Finals last week – edged Jamie Cope 5-4 in another final frame clincher.
In a long, drawn-out affair lacking any real quality, Robertson will be just pleased to get over the winning line and hope for a better performance in the second round.
As usual, there is a wildcard round in China which means that the eight lowest ranked qualifiers have to play selected amateurs for what should have been their rightful place in the first round proper.
And as always, there were a couple of casualties today with Michael Holt and Jamie Jones both going down 5-3 to Li Hang and Lu Ning respectively.
There have been rants about the use of wildcards in these tournaments before so there’s no point in repeating myself only to say that there is no need for them in established events like the China Open.
The four other qualifiers in action in the fabled round today had no such trouble with Jimmy White, – who will play Judd Trump next – Peter Ebdon, Ben Woollaston and Mark King all progressing to the last 32.