World number six Mark Allen became the latest seeded player to be knocked out in the first round of the Betfred World Championship as he lost 10-7 to qualifier Zhou Yuelong.
Allen joins Ronnie O’Sullivan and Luca Brecel as the top-16 ranked players to have fallen so far at the Crucible. He came from 9-2 down to win five frames in a row, but it was too little, too late as China’s Zhou secured victory in the 17th frame.
On his second appearance at the Crucible, 21-year-old Zhou won his first match at the venue, and his reward is a last 16 tie against Jack Lisowski or Ali Carter.
Allen has had one of his best seasons, winning ranking titles at the International Championship and Scottish Open, but it finishes on a low note with defeat in the first round at the Crucible for the first time since 2013. The Northern Irishman has not reached the semi-finals in Sheffield since 2009.
World number 35 Zhou built a 7-2 lead in the opening session on Tuesday with top breaks of 86, 54, 101, 53, 73 and 74. He took the opening frame today with a run of 70 then made a 37 clearance in the next for 9-2.
Allen’s fight-back began with breaks of 68 and 60 for 9-4, and when he cleared with 72 in frame 15 after Zhou had missed a red on 60, the tide was turning. Allen’s 131 total clearance made it 9-6, and Zhou was clearly feeling pressure as another missed red in the 16th allowed Allen to draw within two frames.
But when Zhou got the better of a safety battle on the last red in the 17th, he grasped his chance, cutting the red into a top corner and clearing the table.
“I’m happy to win,” said Zhou, whose best career moment was winning the World Cup for China alongside Yan Bingtao in 2015. “Mark played very well from 9-2, he scored fast and heavily. I just had to wait for my chance and concentrate on every shot.
“I think this was my best match of the season, especially yesterday’s session. I’m excited for the next match. I was happy to play against Mark, he’s one of the best players in the world. I enjoyed it.
“In snooker you just have to do your own job, concentrate on yourself. If you think about your opponent too much it has a bad effect on your own game. I just focus on myself.”
Allen said: “The way I played in the first 11 frames, I didn’t deserve to win a match – it was embarrassing. I prepared really well for the tournament and I was hitting the ball great leading up to it, but just went out there and played like terribly
“I really fancied the job from 9-6. I’m disappointed with the way it ended with a bad safety on the red in the last frame because I felt like I had him on the ropes. I’m proud of the way I hung on even though I was no where near my best.
“The early and middle part of that match was really hard to be part of because I was struggling mentally. I didn’t really know where I was. I didn’t know what I was doing with my technique. I’d miss by three inches and go back to my seat thinking I’ve got to try something different next time. At 9-2 I went for everything and all of a sudden I found some form so maybe there’s something in that.”
On the other table, Kyren Wilson established a 6-2 lead over Scott Donaldson in a match which finishes on Thursday evening.
Wilson, a semi-finalist here last year, took the first three frames with a top break of 100. Debutant Donaldson won two of the next three frames but Wilson snatched the seventh with a 33 clearance to go 5-2 up and won the last of the session on the colours.