Luca Brecel reached his first ranking event quarter-final in ten months by beating Stephen Maguire 6-3 at the Betway UK Championship.
Belgian’s 21-year-old Brecel will now face Shaun Murphy in the last eight – just as he did at the age of just 17 in 2012 when he lost 6-5.
Promising talent Brecel made a breakthrough at the German Masters in February when he reached his first ranking final, and he also got to the final of the Shoot-Out the following week. Since then he has struggled to reproduce the same form, until this fine run at the York Barbican.
The result means that Maguire will finish this tournament outside the world’s top 16 and will miss the Masters for the first time since 2004.
After losing the first two frames, Glasgow’s Maguire hit back with breaks of 101 and 112 to level the match at the interval. Brecel regained the lead in a scrappy fifth frame before Maguire’s 32 clearance made it 3-3.
A run of 61 helped Brecel take the seventh frame and he came from 32-0 down to win the next to lead 5-3. In frame nine, Maguire led 60-26 when he ran out of position with two reds left. He laid a snooker behind the black, but Brecel enjoyed a huge slice of luck as he escaped and knocked a red into a centre pocket. He took full advantage by clearing with 37 to clinch the result.
“The performance was not great, but it was enough,” said Brecel. “I was very confident going into the match, and in the end I got over the line, with a bit of luck. I have good memories of playing Shaun here in 2012 and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I needed a good run and it’s great to do it at one of the biggest tournaments.”
Mark Williams earned a showpiece clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan by edging out Liam Highfield in a tense finish. Highfield, who was seeking to reached the last eight of a ranking event for the first time, had leads of 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4 but couldn’t get to the winning line.
Both players had chances in the decider, Highfield crucially missing the last red along a side cushion when he trailed 31-60. Two-time UK Champion Williams potted the red which proved enough.
“On the last red I was so nervous, my legs, head and hands were shaking,” said world number 16 Williams. “I was all over the place, but so was he. I haven’t been that nervous since I beat Stephen Hendry on a respotted black at the 1998 Masters. Winning tonight means I’m definitely in the Masters next month and maybe in the back of my mind that added more pressure.”