Marco Fu staged a remarkable comeback in a dramatic third day at the World Championship in Sheffield on Monday.
Four seeds somehow all managed to emerge from the first round unscathed despite having to battle extremely hard for their places in the last 16.
None did so more than Hong Kong’s Fu, who looked certain of an early exit when he trailed Belgium’s Luca Brecel 7-2 after the opening session.
However, the Scottish Open champion won six out of the first seven frames upon the game’s resumption to pull level with the 22 year-old.
Brecel then regained the lead with a break of 78 to go to within one frame of victory only to watch as Fu continued the unlikely turnaround with runs of 85 and 56 to complete the deciding frame triumph – the first of the 2017 tournament.
Fu has been a much-improved player in general over the last six months, and he reaped the rewards of renewed belief in himself to maintain his aspirations of a maiden world crown.
Brecel, though, will be hugely disappointed to lose a thrilling encounter and fail to notch up what would have been a first Crucible victory.
Meanwhile, Shaun Murphy and Mark Allen also progressed from titanic tussles against Yan Bingtao and Jimmy Robertson respectively.
Murphy compiled a hat-trick of centuries but couldn’t shake off his teenage opponent, who demonstrated both the talent and the determination which have proven to be the foundations for his rapid rise in the professional ranks already.
The 2005 world champion seemingly shook off the challenge by pulling away from 7-5 to 9-5, but he failed to score another point for three frames as the 17 year-old reeled off runs of 94 and 70 to get back to within just one frame.
A dramatic decider looked likely only for an outrageous fluke for Murphy initiated his match winning clearance.
It was a fortunate conclusion to the encounter for the 34 year-old but he did play extremely well for the majority of the contest and will give Ronnie O’Sullivan a stern test in the next round.
Adding more spice to an already mouthwatering prospect between the duo was Murphy adding his own opinion, as he so often does, into the mix about the recent controversy surrounding O’Sullivan and the sport’s authorities.
Northern Ireland’s Allen was similarly tested, winning the last two frames to overcome Jimmy Robertson 10-8 in a high-scoring affair.
Allen has endured a dreadful campaign but could benefit from the fact that nobody is really talking about him being any sort of threat this year.
Elsewhere, Stuart Bingham dispatched of Peter Ebdon in the battle of the former world champions.
The 10-5 scoreline flattered the 2015 winner, after he snatched three frames that his fellow Englishman ought to have won instead during the second session.
Bingham didn’t really show any kind of form to suggest he will mount a serious challenge this year but he will again be the favourite against Kyren Wilson in his next clash, so could grow into the event in time – like during his memorable run at the Crucible two years ago.
Two other ties reached the halfway points with Ding Junhui and John Higgins each establishing apparently comfortably advantages overnight.
The pair built 7-2 leads over Zhou Yuelong and Martin Gould respectively.
China’s Ding, in particular, was impressive as he recorded three centuries including a tournament-high tally of 134 in dominating his young countryman.
Both matches reach their climaxes on Tuesday while pre-tournament favourite Judd Trump is among the newcomers who will begin their World Championship campaigns.
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