Joe Perry inflicted a shock 10-4 drubbing on reigning champion Mark Selby on the opening day of the World Snooker Championship on Saturday in Sheffield.
Selby had been one of the title favourites after a two-year winning run at the Crucible Theatre and a recent triumph in the lucrative China Open appeared to suggest that his fragile form from this season had been eradicated.
However, the Englishman failed to get going early on against his fellow Englishman and never recovered properly after losing the opening four frames of the contest.
Against an experienced professional in Perry, who is a former ranking event winner and at 43 is the oldest player in the tournament, the defeat won’t go down as one of the major upsets in Crucible history – but it’s still a surprise nonetheless.
Apart from his maiden defence in 2015, Selby had been granite on this stage for the last four years and, even when he trailed 7-2 after the opening session, there was scope to suggest that the master of brinkmanship could pull another Houdini act.
Yet, despite a brief rally in which he reduced his arrears to 8-4, Perry completed the rout with runs of 76 and 90 to move into the last 16.
Selby’s premature exit significantly opens up the top quarter of the draw and it’ll be interesting to see who can now take advantage in that section to reach the semi-finals.
Kettering’s Kyren Wilson was incredibly the only seed from day one to boast a lead after the first session, racing away for a 7-2 overnight cushion against Matthew Stevens.
The Masters runner-up, along with the player who beat him in the Alexandra Palace final in Mark Allen, and former world champion Shaun Murphy, will be looking at Selby’s demise as a possible opening to challenge at the business end of the competition this year.
Allen, who only barely squeezed into the automatic places to qualify straight from the top 16 in the world rankings, and Murphy both get their campaigns under way on Sunday against Liam Highfield and Jamie Jones respectively.
Meanwhile, three other seeded competitors find themselves with a lot work to do heading into their second and final sessions on Sunday.
Pre-tournament favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan, who has won a record-equalling five ranking event crowns during a stellar campaign, trails Stephen Maguire 6-3 while Marco Fu, returning after a few months out of the game through injury, is down by the same margin against debutant Lyu Haotian.
O’Sullivan was in wretched form in the opening exchanges with Maguire, a player he has twice before beaten at this stage of the World Championship, and duly went 4-0 behind with a pot success in the mid-seventies.
An untimely kick while in the balls in the fifth frame led to some serious frustration for the Scot, though, and O’Sullivan finally shifted through the gears with back-to-back centuries reducing his arrears to one.
However, Maguire dug deep and pinched both of the last frames to establish a commanding position against the five-time champion.
As for Lyu, the 20 year-old looked at home in his maiden appearance at the Crucible, compiling a brace of tons and further runs of 87 and 51 to outplay Hong Kong’s Fu.
Fu, of course, retrieved an even worse scenario this time last year when he overturned a 7-2 deficit against Luca Brecel, but whether or not the 40 year-old is sufficiently match fit to pull off another miracle is up for debate.
Elsewhere, Ali Carter finds himself in a similar place after falling 6-3 down to former champion Graeme Dott.
Dott didn’t compile a single break above 50 but put in a measured display to open up a healthy lead against the two-time beaten finalist in Sheffield.
While Carter technically is regarded as the top 16 player, defeat for the “Captain” wouldn’t necessarily legislate as a major shock as he’s been in poor form of late and, in contrast, his opponent has been enjoying a resurgence with two runs to the finals of ranking events in the last couple of months.