Marco Fu became the first man to reach the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship with a 13-9 defeat of Anthony McGill.
Fu suffered a cricked neck just after his first round win over Peter Ebdon and admitted he could have been forced to pull out of the event if his second match had come earlier in the week. But a visit to a chiropractor and a few days rest allowed him to recover in time.
The Hong Kong ace is now through to the quarter-finals at the Crucible for the first time since 2006, when he got to the semis before losing 17-16 to Ebdon. World number 14 Fu, a two-time ranking event winner, has a surprisingly poor record in Sheffield given his knack of raising his game against the top players, and will be determined to seize this chance improve that record. He now meets Ronnie O’Sullivan or Barry Hawkins.
McGill got to the last eight on his debut a year again and was seeking to become the first player since Matthew Stevens in 1999 to reach the quarter-finals in his first two Crucible appearances. But the talented young Scot lost his way after leading 6-5 and won just three of the last 11 frames.
McGill trailed 9-7 going into the final session and won the first frame tonight with a break of 97. But Fu then dominated the next three frames with top runs of 56 and 100 to make it 12-8. He could have closed out victory in the next but missed the last red on 55 and his opponent cleared to keep the match alive. But a long red from Fu early in frame 22 set up a break of 69 which proved enough.
“I didn’t play very well, I made a lot of mistakes,” insisted Fu. “The game went a bit scrappy, we were both missing easy shots. The last session was a lot better, I played with confidence and felt more comfortable.
“I need to find some inspiration, I’m in the quarter-finals of the World Championship, playing at the Crucible. It’s going to be a huge occasion for me, I’m really looking forward to it. This year I’ve managed to play a little bit better than before and I’m in the quarter finals. Hopefully I can go one step further at least.
“Ronnie is the best player in the world, but if Barry wins he’s going to give me a very tough job as well. In the quarter finals you don’t really expect an easy game, its going to be a tough task.
“I need to play my way into the tournament if I want to do well, you need to peak at the right time. Stephen Hendry used to struggle in the early rounds, then peak at the right time.”
McGill said: “I was rubbish the whole way through, I was so poor. I made a mess of so many chances. Marco is a great player, but he played rubbish as well. You only have to do better than the other guy. I was the other guy and I was even more hopeless so he deserved it.
“My season has been terrible, although it was nice to get a little run here. I’ll try and do better next time. I need a lot of practice, I won’t be taking any time off, I won’t be sat on my backside.
“My game is going in the right direction, I’ve still got time on my side and I’m nowhere near my peak yet.”
The match featured an amusing incident during the final session when Fu accidentally poked McGill on the arm with his cue tip.
“I’ve not been stabbed before!” joked McGill. “He’s a gentlemen, he brushed the chalk off. Without being stabbed in the arm I would have won and played a lot better, I honestly thought I needed CPR.”
Meanwhile, two time World Champion Mark Williams surged into a 10-6 lead over Michael Holt by winning six out of eight frames in their second session.
Breaks of 87 and 61 tonight put Williams 6-4 up before Holt battled back to 6-6 with a top run of 83. But Welshman Williams – who trailed 4-1 at one stage this morning, won all four frames after the interval with top runs of 64 and 68. He needs three more frames when they return tomorrow afternoon to reach his first quarter-final since 2011.