Mark Selby narrowly avoided a surprise defeat in the third round of the Betway UK Championship, beating Jamie Jones 6-5 in an exciting finish in York on Monday night.
Welshman Jones, ranked 33rd, had chances to beat the world number one but couldn’t take advantage, and a typically gritty Selby came out on top in the end to book a last 16 meeting with Mark Joyce or Dechawat Poomjaeng.
Leicester’s Selby is chasing his first title of the season and looking to regain the UK crown he won in 2012.
Jones, a semi-finalist at the Australian Goldfields Open, started strongly with breaks of 53 and 133 to go 2-0 up, and he later led 4-3. In frame eight, Selby was 14 points behind on the final pink, and was lucky to see Jones go in-off when escaping from a snooker. Selby potted an excellent long pink and added the black to level the match.
Back came Jones with a break of 111 to regain the lead and he might have sealed the result in the next but ran out of position on the last red when leading by 28 points. Selby escaped from two snookers and eventually cleared with 35 to force the decider.
Both players had early chances in the last frame but when Jones missed a tricky red to a top corner, Selby put together a match-winning 67.
“I don’t know how I won because Jamie played better than me and he deserved to win,” admitted Selby. “I was just happy to be 5-5 because I should have lost before that. I held myself together in the end and made a good break.”
Joe Swail reached the last 16 of the UK Championship for the first time since 1999 by thrashing Michael Holt 6-1 with a top break of 57.
Swail dropped off the pro tour in 2012 and contemplated quitting the sport, but regained his place a year later and has now climbed back into the world’s top 64. The former Welsh Open finalist could face friend and practice partner Mark Allen in the last 16 here, if Allen beats Martin Gould tomorrow.
“It’s only a few years ago I thought I was done with snooker, but since then things have fallen into place,” said 46-year-old Ulsterman Swail. “I’m playing with a smile on my face and I don’t care whether I win or lose, because when I put pressure on myself it stops me playing my natural game.
“The match tonight was surprisingly one-sided – I’m not sure what was wrong with Michael but he wasn’t at the races. I just focussed on my own game.
“It will be great for Northern Ireland if I do play Mark next. In the past I was always picking balls out for him in practice but now it’s 50/50 which shows how much I’ve improved.”
David Grace equalled the best ranking event performance of his career by beating Jack Lisowski 6-4. From 3-1 down, Leeds cueman Grace won five of the next six frames with a top break of 75.
“I’m buzzing – I did really well at the end under pressure,” said world number 81 Grace, who now meets Peter Ebdon. “I twitched a few balls early on the match, but I still felt good at the interval even though I was 3-1 down. The next match against Ebdon will be as tough as they come, he played well to beat Stuart Bingham today. But I don’t mind being the underdog.”
Luca Brecel was a quarter-finalist in York in 2012 and is just one win away from matching that run thanks to a 6-2 defeat of Robin Hull. Belgium’s 20-year-old Brecel showed his break-building class with runs of 65, 102, 57, 82 and 81.
“My form has been a lot more consistent this season,” said Brecel, a semi-finalist at the Welsh Open in February. “I am working hard and I am gaining confidence and self-belief, which is what you need at this level.”