Amateur James Cahill has produced one of the most sensational upsets in World Snooker Championship history after recording a 10-8 victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round on Tuesday in Sheffield.
The 23 year-old, the first amateur to ever qualify for the Crucible Theatre, was a massive underdog against the world number one and pre-tournament favourite.
But Cahill rarely wilted at the challenge, taking the game to O’Sullivan on the biggest occasion of his career.
The latter was chasing a sixth world title to take him one behind the all-time record of seven by Stephen Hendry.
Hendry is Cahill’s uncle by law and the youngster demonstrated every bit of the ice cool winning mentality of the Scot when he had the winning line in sight.
Cahill began the second session with a slender 5-4 advantage over O’Sullivan, who was criticised after an opening spell in which he appeared to be disinterested with the contest.
A break of 97 signalled the 43 year-old’s intent to put things right on the second day but Cahill replied with an excellent 84 clearance to regain the lead.
Cahill’s credentials as a giant-killer were already strong after a brilliant victory over Mark Selby in the UK Championship in December.
The Blackpool potter pinched a tight subsequent frame on the colours and also took the next to establish an 8-5 cushion at the last mid-session interval.
O’Sullivan, who blamed poor health for his out-of-sorts performance, produced a timely century break and a run of 89 as he seemingly regained the initiative to restore parity at 8-8.
However, a series of dramatic shots ultimately swung the match in favour of Cahill late on.
The qualifier made a monumental twitch while on a break of 62 but O’Sullivan missed the final pink on what could have been a pivotal clearance, allowing Cahill in again to move to within the brink of glory.
The “Rocket”, frustrated and now going for every pot imaginable, was en route to forcing a decider but inadvertently knocked in a red while sinking the blue.
Cahill held himself together to compile a remarkable 53 clearance and put the finishing touches to an outstanding success.
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) April 23, 2019
The victory ranks alongside Tony Knowles’ 10-1 defeat of defending champion Steve Davis in 1982 and Michael Wasley’s upset of Ding Junhui in 2014 as the tournament’s biggest shocks.
“I could barely stand up at the end there,” admitted the amateur James Cahill in the moments after his triumph.
“I felt like he was under a bit of pressure. I’ve always believed in myself and believed I could beat anybody in the game.
“I’ve got my tour card back and I’m hoping to show what I can do now.”
Cahill, who beat Andrew Higginson, Michael Holt, and Michael Judge in the qualifying tournament, will face Stephen Maguire in the last 16.
O’Sullivan’s wait, meanwhile, for a first world title since 2013 must go on for another year.
The Englishman has dominated the majority of the events he’s participated in this season, winning five and reaching the finals in seven out of the ten competitions he entered before Sheffield.
But the Crucible Theatre has proven to be an unhappy stomping ground for O’Sullivan since throwing away a sizable lead in the 2014 final against Mark Selby.
There will be renewed question marks surrounding the 19-time Triple Crown winner’s ability to add to his World Championship haul after this surprising exit.