Two of the favourites for the 2014 UK Championship were ousted on Tuesday as the seeds’ domination came to an abrupt end.
Two-time champion Ding Junhui and 2011 runner-up Mark Allen both suffered surprising exits in the third round in York, while Joe Perry and Robert Milkins also failed to make the last 16.
China’s Ding was involved in a titanic tussle with 18 year-old James Cahill, who had already produced a stunning 6-0 whitewash win over Mark King in the opening round.
The Englishman, nephew of seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry, looked to be heading for an unlikely runaway victory when he opened up a 5-1 lead by taking a string of close frames.
However, despite having good chances in three out of the next four frames, the inexperienced teenager couldn’t get over the winning line and his illustrious opponent fought back to force the decider.
Ding, who made a superb 134 in the first frame of the match before Cahill responded with a 100 of his own, got in first in the 11th but his break ended on 32 and a determined 56 from Cahill helped him on his way to a memorable triumph.
Meanwhile, Allen looked to be coasting into the fourth round when he produced a brace of brilliant centuries to open up a 3-0 advantage over Rod Lawler.
Yet, Lawler is regarded as one of the most dogged competitors on the circuit and replied with runs of 110 and 56 en route to leveling the contest at 4-4.
In the end, ‘The Plod’ took the last two frames comfortably enough to inflict an unexpected defeat on the Northern Irishman, who had reached four big finals already this season.
Elsewhere, Ronnie O’Sullivan was nowhere near his best in the beginning of his tie with Ben Woollaston – indeed, his long pot success was a meagre 13% at one point – but finished stronger by taking the last five frames for a 6-2 success.
With no more rest days between now and the final, it will be interesting to see how the ‘Rocket’ performs on his injured ankle with less recuperation time.
The two most dominant displays of the day came from a pair of Scots.
2004 champion Stephen Maguire compiled breaks of 132, 90, 87, 80 and 64 as he overcame Mark Williams in high-quality affair.
The win sets up a clash with Ireland’s David Morris, who will be hoping to reach the last eight of a major ranking event tournament for the first time in his career.
Maguire’s countryman Graeme Dott, the 2006 world champion, knocked in three tons of 127, 120 and 117 in a 6-0 drubbing over Robert Milkins – a result that could have big ramifications for who gains the final Masters invitation.
Dott needs to reach at least the semi-finals to guarantee dislodging Milkins from the 16th and final spot available, but plays defending champion Neil Robertson in the last 16.
The Australian impressed with breaks of 108, 84, 78, 74, 70 and 65 as he beat fellow former winner Peter Ebdon 6-2.
Finally, Stuart Bingham came from 4-1 down to pip Joel Walker 6-5 while Mark Davis recorded the same in a similar comeback victory over Joe Perry.
Wednesday sees the arena restructured to fit only two tables, with extra seating to be provided at the sides.
While the crowds have been big all week, some people have noted an unusually muted response from the fans to certain key shots in frames.
With four tables previously inside the venue, perhaps some of the good play was lost as the punters spread their focus between different encounters.
The two-table set-up should lead to a better atmosphere at the Barbican Centre as we approach the business end of the event.
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