Ali Carter beat the defending champion Stuart Bingham 10-9 as the opening day of the World Championship began in thrilling fashion at the Crucible.
There had been much hype surrounding the build-up to this tie with the obvious queries concerning the Curse of the Crucible whereby there has never been a first-time champion return to defend his crown.
Well, the hoodoo materialised straight away after a dramatic tussle that ebbed and flowed one way and then the other.
Bingham won the opening frame but subsequently looked lost at sea as he struggled to cope with the extremities of the pressure etched on his shoulders.
Carter won the next five frames and should have been 6-1 up only for a missed black off the spot, and another poor botch at a green let his struggling opponent in for a reprieve.
Bingham grasped his opportunity to reduce his arrears and, buoyed, two breaks of 96 and 90 meant he somewhat unbelievably trailed by only one after the first session.
When the 39 year-old won the opening frame of the second to level he appeared on top but once again the nerves grabbed a stranglehold on his performance and Carter pulled three frames clear at 8-5.
Bingham, though, drew on the qualities that brought him to his maiden world crown 12 months ago, capitalising on Carter’s sudden mental collapse with runs of 88 and 68 to level at eight frames apiece.
When the world no.2 compiled the first century of the clash to go in front for the first time since the opening frame it looked like the Carter’s chances had crashed.
Yet, the ‘Captain’ steadied the ship with a superb ton of his own to force an error-strewn, tense final frame in which both players had their chances.
But Carter, runner-up in 2008 and 2012, had a glint in his eye as he sensed victory and just about held off a late charge for snookers from the champion to progress.
Meanwhile, earlier in the evening Marco Fu became the first player into the last 16 after a 10-2 pummeling of Peter Ebdon.
2002 champion Ebdon had been one of the staunch critics of the timing of the qualifiers at Ponds Forge, where three victories were required only days before the outset of the main event
However, Fu was masterful from start to finish and, even though a fatigued Ebdon could have presented a better fight, there was only ever going to be one winner.
The 38 year-old from Hong Kong compiled runs of 111 – his 400th career century – 138 and five other runs above 50 to power his way into the second round, in doing so avenging his semi-final defeat to Ebdon a decade ago.
Fu will next play the winner of the tie between Shaun Murphy and Anthony McGill, which is currently 5-4 in favour of the 2005 world champion.
A topsy-turvy opening session, which coupled plenty of misses with an array of sizable contributions, marginally favoured the Englishman as he attempts to knock McGill’s bid for a second successive season.
The other encounter to get going was the all-Scottish affair between Stephen Maguire and Alan McManus.
Despite a promising start from Maguire in going 3-1 up at the interval, it was his elder statesman who began to dominate with breaks of 60, 78, 54 and 63 helping him to five frames on the trot and a 6-3 half-time advantage.
Maguire, who squeezed into the top 16 at the last moment to seal an automatic berth, has lost 10-9 in the the first round of each of the last three World Championships.
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