Marco Fu completed one of the best comebacks of recent years at the Crucible to defeat Luca Brecel 10-9 and reach the second round of the Betfred World Championship.
The Hong Kong potter looked down and out after the opening session. He trailed 7-1, although he did make a century run of 105 to reduce his arrears to 7-2 at the close of play.
Brecel became the youngest ever World Championship competitor in 2012 aged 17. This was the Belgian’s first appearance at the Crucible since – but his return ended in heartbreak as Fu overturned a significant deficit.
The Scottish Open Champion immediately applied pressure this evening, bursting out of the blocks with runs of 75 and 83 to pull within three frames at 7-4.
That became 8-5 at the mid-session and when they returned Fu continued to push the Belgian hard. He claimed three frames on the bounce and levelled the scores at 8-8. However, Brecel showed his resolve to respond with a run of 78 to move one from the win at 9-8.
Fu wasn’t to be denied and compiled breaks of 85, 46 and 56 to cross the line and complete the comeback in the first match of this year’s Championship to go to a deciding frame.
Fu remarked: “I made a similar comeback against Stuart Bingham in the World Amateur final, where I was 7-1 down and I won 11-10. But this is the Crucible. From yesterday to today it was like two different seasons, it was very hard to understand what happened, but I’m through and I’m very happy.
“It was a rollercoaster 24 hours, I was very down. I was even thinking of retiring at the way I was playing! I’ve had a great season, but yesterday’s performance was just not acceptable and after playing so well over the last year it was even tougher to handle.
“The way Luca was playing, I’ve watched some of his matches. He beat Shaun Murphy 4-0 and Shaun maybe only scored 10 points in the whole match. That was the type of standard he produced yesterday and it can be very hard to contain. But that is the beauty of long matches and it always gives you a chance to come back. The match turned around dramatically in 24 hours and its hard to understand why but that is the way it works.”
Mark Allen came through another engrossing contest, beating Jimmy Robertson 10-8.
World number 11 Allen has had a disappointing season by his standards, reaching just one ranking event quarter-final. But the Northern Irishman can still rescue his campaign with a deep run at the Crucible and showed his fighting spirit tonight as he came from 7-6 down to win four of the last five frames.
Sussex cueman Robertson was aiming to win a match at the Crucible for the first time and started strongly tonight as he came from 5-4 down to take three of the first four frames with top breaks of 62, 66 and 54.
Allen, a semi-finalist here in 2009, won frame 14 with a run of 60 for 7-7 then took the next by potting blue and pink. World number 39 Robertson made a 66 for 8-8 and he had first scoring chance in frame 17 but made just 17. Allen hit back to take it then clinched victory in the 18th with a break of 97. He now meets John Higgins or Martin Gould.
“It was a tough two days,” admitted three-time ranking event winner Allen. “I didn’t feel like I deserved to win that match because Jimmy played the better snooker and he looked more positive than I did.
“I could have easily lost that first session 6-3 or 7-2 but somehow managed to come out 5-4 up. I pinched a few frames that I shouldn’t have. Jimmy started like a train and put me under all sorts of pressure yesterday. He came out positive tonight as well but the one thing I don’t lack is bottle. It would be nice to have a bit of form to go with it.
“I can’t keep playing like that or I’ll get beat. There is good form in there but there is a mental block getting it out at the minute. I’ll have a chat with a few people close to me and that’ll bring better form on the table. I’ve put the hours in on the practice table for months now and don’t feel like I’ve got the rewards. Maybe scraping through that match will spur me on.
“I’ve won matches in the big invitation events this season so financially I’ve been ok. But in the ranking events I haven’t been winning anywhere near enough matches. Missing out on the Players Championship because I wasn’t in the top 16 on the one year list – it was quite embarrassing not be able to defend my title.”
Robertson said: “I had plenty of chances but fair play to him, he finished off really well. It was a bit of an improvement from the last two times I’ve been here so there are positives to take. I felt pretty comfortable out there. Hopefully I can kick on next season.”