Stuart Bingham denied Graeme Dott one of the greatest Crucible comebacks of all-time, staving off Dott’s charge from 8-1 down to emerge a 10-9 victor in the opening round of the Betfred World Championship.
Bingham’s relief to have edged through will be heightened by the fact that he now remains in the hunt to cash in on some superb form heading into this year’s event. The 2015 Crucible king has secured silverware at the 2018 English Open and the 2019 Gibraltar Open this season. His progression to round two will see him meet another former World Champion in the form of four-time winner of the event John Higgins next.
If 2006 World Champion Dott were to have completed the typically tenacious fightback, it would only have been topped by Dennis Taylor’s epic 18-17 defeat of Steve Davis in the 1985 final, in terms of greatest deficits erased at the Crucible. On that occasion Taylor came from 9-1 down to take home the title.
The seven-frame deficit faced by Dott would have matched the second biggest to ever be overturned at snooker’s Theatre of Dreams. That came when Nigel Bond battled from 9-2 down to beat Cliff Thorburn 10-9 in the first round in 1994.
Scotland’s Dott faced the daunting 8-1 scoreline following the first session, but came roaring back into the tie this evening. He composed breaks of 114, 70 and 77 to close the gap to 8-4. However, Bingham still looked on course to claim a comfortable win, when he pinched the last frame before the mid-session to lead 9-4.
Dott narrowed the gap further to 9-6, before Bingham gave away the 16th frame in extraordinary circumstances. He forfeited the frame after three consecutive fouls, while attempting a thin safety shot, saw him incur the three-miss rule.
The tension ramped up, as Bingham started to falter further. Dott battled to take the 17th and make it 9-8 and proceeded to fire in a steely run of 88 to force a decider.
Both players spurned opportunities to clinch the most dramatic of victories. However, it was Bingham who was crucially able to craft a run of 35 amid the almost unbearable tension. He managed his lead and got over the line for the thrilling 10-9 win.
Bingham said: “This morning I felt really good, I was taking every chance I got. This evening Graham took the game to me. I didn’t really do much wrong to lose the first three frames, so I was trying to stay positive. How I got over the line in the end I’ll never know, I was shaking.
“Everything was going against me, everything was going wrong. After the three misses things went from bad to worse. I just wanted a chance in the balls. I had a couple of opportunities. Maybe I should have been more aggressive as I was trying to pick off reds rather than open the pack up. Somehow in the decider I made a break to get ahead and managed to stay in control.”
Dott said: “I was gutted this morning. The way Stuart probably felt tonight, I felt this morning. I just never really settled. I think once he saw that I wasn’t settled he just kicked on and played quite well. At 8-1 you feel you’re beat basically.
“I’ve played well tonight and I’ve played well in the qualifiers. This is where we want to play, you want to finish the season here rather than the qualifiers and you want to try and enjoy it when you get here. I enjoyed tonight because I started to hit the ball like I was in the qualifiers. I’m just glad I gave him a game, there’s nothing worse than getting beat 10-1.”
On the other table China’s world number 35 Zhou Yuelong put on a superb display to lead former Masters champion Mark Allen 7-2.
The talented 21-year-old Zhou requires three more frames to secure a shock victory. He produced breaks of 86, 54, 101, 53, 73 and 74 on his way to the impressive scoreline.