Marco Fu compiled a wonderful 147 break on an opening day of the Masters that saw three-time champion Mark Selby suffer an early exit at the Alexandra Palace.
Selby lost in a deciding frame contest in the tournament for the first time in an unbelievable 12 encounters as he was narrowly downed 6-5 by fellow Englishman Shaun Murphy.
Hong Kong’s Fu later in the day produced only the third maximum ever in the 601st match in the famous tournament’s history – following Kirk Stevens in 1984 and Ding Junhui eight years ago.
Fu lost to Ding in the 2011 final and looked sharp as he knocked in a further two tons en route to a 6-3 victory over Stuart Bingham.
It had looked as though Murphy, runner-up a year after Fu, was going to coast to a comfortable triumph when he opened up a 5-1 advantage over Selby – whose form collapsed following a 100 in the opening frame.
However, the world champion is known as the master of brinkmanship and that almost materialised again as Selby fought back to force an 11th frame.
Selby had never previously lost in a final frame thriller in the Masters, with his many tight tussles in the past resulting in him reaching five out of the last seven finals in London.
But the 31 year-old’s run finally came to an end as Murphy, recently engaged to an Irishwoman, held his nerve to advance to the quarter-finals.
Murphy, a former world and UK champion, has openly stated his desire to add the Masters to his collection and thus become the tenth player to complete snooker’s Triple Crown.
However, he rather unusually said prior to his bout with Selby that he was giving himself until 2025 to achieve the feat – not exactly fighting talk on the eve of a big tournament.
That said, the 32 year-old has looked in good form over the course of the last year with one ranking event and three European Tour titles to his name, not to forget the three 147s he made also.
It was Fu who was writing maximum headlines on Sunday, though, with his history-making break coming in the fourth frame against opponent Bingham.
That put Fu 3-1 in front and he managed his lead until the end to book a last eight tie with either Ricky Walden or defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan has made the most competitive 147s but one tournament he has failed to accomplish the prefect break is at the Masters.
Even though maximums come by more regularly these days than they did a couple of decades ago, Fu deserves plenty of recognition nonetheless, especially considering he produced it in front of a packed vociferous audience of more than 1500 people.
Fu and Murphy do not automatically roll off the tongue as potential champions as easily as some of the others but that does not mean they are not capable of both reaching a major final – as they did at the 2008 UK Championship when the latter emerged with the trophy.
Yet, two of the more obvious picks enter the fray today with Australian world no.1 Neil Robertson taking on Robert Milkins and Stephen Maguire challenging Judd Trump in a mouth-watering affair.
One would expect Robertson to have too much for Milkins but the first clash on Monday promises to be a barnstorming affair with the pair having faced each other on four occasions already this season.
Trump has got the better of the Scot in each of the last three meetings so Maguire, fresh off landing the Lisbon Open crown before Christmas, will be desperate for a modicum of revenge.
A deciding frame contest and a 147 to open up the Masters then. What more is in store as the most prestigious invitation event is now under way?