fluked blue

Fluked Blue Helps Stephen Maguire Through

A “crazy” fluked blue proved to be the turning point as Stephen Maguire fought back to edge Tian Pengfei in a deciding frame thriller on Sunday.

The first round World Snooker Championship encounter at the Crucible Theatre appeared to be heading the way of the Chinese debutant when Tian established a 9-7 advantage late on.

Maguire, who had lost in the last 32 in six out of his last eight appearances in Sheffield, required a snooker in the 17th frame – his chances for another year seemingly in tatters.

But the Scot received the penalty points he needed and, after missing a wild attempt at a medium-ranged blue, the ball inadvertently crashed against the jaws of the yellow pocket and off the cue ball into the green pocket.

Maguire cleared the remaining colours and also snatched the final two frames under tense circumstances to consign his opponent to a miserable defeat.

Up until the fluked blue, Tian had performed commendably on his first appearance – a far cry from a couple of the other debutants in the 2019 edition.

After impressive qualifying round victories over Welsh duo Ryan Day and Matthew Stevens, a further upset was on the cards as the 31 year-old compiled a brace of centuries and five additional runs over 50 to go to within the brink of the last 16.

Yet, Maguire’s fortune painted a completely different outlook on the contest and in the end the 2004 UK champion’s experience proved to be the vital difference.

“Listen, I got lucky there,” the 38 year-old candidly said in his post-match press conference.

“I fluked a crazy blue and it changed the whole match so I was very lucky.”

“After that happened I did (think it was going to be my night) but halfway through the match I felt things weren’t going for me.

“But when that happened, that was just outrageous and I thought ‘if I can pot the pink here, I’ve won this’.

Earlier in the day, Gary Wilson and Luca Brecel also went the distance in a low-quality battle that broke records for the wrong reasons.

Their final frame shoot-out, timed at 79 minutes and 31 seconds, represented the longest ever played at the Crucible.

Wilson came out on top, holding off a late revival from the Belgian who was otherwise again disappointing in the sport’s showpiece event.

Brecel is now zero and four from his first round matches, while Wilson progresses to the second round for the first time in his career.

Former world champion Neil Robertson and 2016 runner-up Ding Junhui both maintained their hopes of capturing this year’s title as well.

China Open champion Robertson wasn’t able to record a first Crucible whitewash in 27 years but did hammer Michael Georgiou 10-1.

The Australian will likely encounter Shaun Murphy next after the 2005 world champion steamrollered Luo Honghao 9-0 in the first session, aided by an impressive four century breaks.

Ding had a slightly rougher time of it but looked good in spells during a 10-7 success over Anthony McGill.

The Chinese number one’s CV is only really missing the World Championship but Ding finds himself in a seriously difficult quarter of the draw.

The 32 year-old potentially faces Judd Trump in the second round before a possible meeting with tournament favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last eight.

Meanwhile, four-time champion John Higgins got off to a positive opening as he established a 6-3 cushion overnight against Mark Davis.

Higgins and Murphy’s outcomes will be determined on Monday, while O’Sullivan and Mark Selby are among the players entering the fray.

Live coverage continues on the BBC, Eurosport, and on Facebook (selected countries).

Click here to view the draw.

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