Former champion Neil Robertson launched an incredible surge of power scoring to complete a brilliant comeback and beat Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 6-3 in the UK Championship on Saturday.
The 2013 and 2015 winner looked to be in trouble when he found himself 3-0 down in his second round tie against the unpredictable Thai, who had compiled breaks of 61 and 105 in typically lightning fashion.
However, Robertson capitalised on a missed opportunity from his opponent in the fourth frame, with his run of 84 before the mid-session interval sparking a devastating burst to the winning line.
Further breaks of 137, 117, 101, 78, and 68 after the brief stoppage saw the “Thunder from Down Under” storm into the last 32 at the Thai’s expense.
Robertson’s average shot clock had been up near the 30 second mark when he was trailing early on but that reduced significantly by the end of the contest to just under 19 seconds.
The Riga Masters champion admitted afterwards that this is an area of his game that he needs to improve on, hinting that he plays better when he is more fluent in among the balls rather than getting bogged down.
One player who couldn’t buy any fluency was John Higgins, who struggled badly and fell to a 6-5 defeat to fellow Scot Alan McManus.
In a turgid affair that was bereft of much quality, Higgins appeared as though he was going to get away with a terrible display that produced zero breaks above 50 when he overturned a 3-1 and led 5-3.
However, McManus was able to comeback and force a deciding frame, producing a timely 85 break out of nowhere in the decider to win the only frame of the match that wasn’t entirely scrappy.
Higgins, a nine-time winner of Triple Crown events, looked a sorry figure in his post-match press conference and admitted again, as he has done already this season, that he is seriously struggling for motivation at present.
‘I’m near the end of my time… I’ll have a good think at the end of the season’
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) December 1, 2018
For 47 year-old McManus, it’s a vital victory for the experienced competitor who is fighting for his tour survival and is currently just inside the top 64 cut-off point in the provisional world rankings.
Meanwhile, English Open champion Stuart Bingham also went the distance but was able to hold off a spirited comeback from Kurt Maflin to edge the Norwegian 6-5.
It was easier for Barry Hawkins and Kyren Wilson who both enjoyed routine wins and, along with Bingham, will be hoping to take advantage of a third quarter of the draw that has opened up somewhat falling the demise of world number one Mark Selby.
Amateur James Cahill, who sensationally accounted for Selby in the first round on Thursday, almost followed it up but just fell short in a dramatic 6-5 loss to Akani Songsermsawad that concluded after midnight and went all the way down to the final balls.
By contrast, world champion Mark Williams hammered Daniel Wells 6-0 in a thoroughly one-sided fixture, with the Welshman knocking in a brace of tons en route to the third round.
Should Williams, who won the World Open in the summer, go on and claim a third UK Championship crown in his career, the 43 year-old would usurp Selby at the top of the world rankings.
Elsewhere, Stephen Maguire and Jack Lisowski strengthened their positions in the Race to the Masters standings by manoeuvring their way beyond the second hurdle.
Maguire was made to work hard for his 6-4 win over Scott Donaldson but Lisowski was in trademark frenetic form as he thumped Mei Xiwen 6-1 in about two hours.
The pair provisionally hold the final two places in the pecking order for the Masters and, intriguingly, will face the duo leading the chasing pack next should Marco Fu and Ali Carter progress from their last 64 matches on Sunday.
Joe Perry is also in with a shout of making a late bid to gain an invitation to the Alexandra Palace and the Englishman enjoyed a comprehensive 6-1 outing against Michael Holt.
On what was a bad day for Chinese snooker in general following the length bans given to Yu Delu and Cao Yupeng for match fixing, four of the current crop were able to generate some positive headlines by the end of day’s play.
Xiao Guodong constructed a 100 break and six additional tallies above 50 in overcoming Ben Woollaston 6-3 while Tian Pengfei beat European Masters champion Jimmy Robertson 6-2.
There were triumphs too for the dangerous Zhou Yuelong and Lu Ning, but Li Hang crashed out following a 6-2 reverse against Mark King.
On Sunday, Ronnie O’Sullivan will be back in action and will take on Ireland’s Ken Doherty in a repeat of the 2002 UK Championship final – the first that was staged at the Barbican Centre in York.
Judd Trump, Ding Junhui, and Mark Allen are among some of the other marquee names set to continue their bids to capture the first Triple Crown silverware of the campaign.