Mark Williams saw his reign as Betfred World Champion ended by a 13-9 defeat against David Gilbert at the second round stage.
Williams, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby, the top three ranked players in the world, have all left Sheffield within the first two rounds.
Three-time Crucible king Williams was in the emergency department of the Northern General Hospital until late last night suffering from chest pains and he was clearly off-colour today, both in his demeanour and performance.
But that takes nothing away from former tractor driver Gilbert, who is competing as a seed at the Crucible for the first time and has broken new ground by reaching the last eight. His next opponent is either Barry Hawkins or Kyren Wilson.
A strong run at the Crucible caps off a career-best season for Tamworth’s 37-year-old Gilbert; this term he has reached two ranking event finals as well as climbing into the top 16. One of those finals, at the Yushan World Open, ended in cruel defeat as he let slip a 9-5 lead against Williams, losing 10-9. He admitted that was in his mind tonight, but this time there was no surrender.
World number three Williams trailed 9-7 going into the final session and took the first frame tonight to halve his deficit. But Gilbert quickly quashed his opponent’s hopes of a fight back as breaks of 62, 52 and 139 gave him three frames in a row and made it 12-8 at the interval.
World number 16 Gilbert might have sealed victory in frame 21 had he not missed a tough final red with the rest along a side cushion. Williams took advantage to pull one back and he had first chance in the 22nd but could only make 33. This time Gilbert punished him with a match-winning run of 89.
“I really enjoyed the match from start to finish,” said Gilbert, who had won just one match at the Crucible before this year. “In the last session I was so comfortable and calm within myself and it was one of my best ever performances. I really felt like I deserved the win, I stuck to my guns all day.
“It means everything. It wasn’t so long ago I was struggling to get through the qualifiers and now I’m at the Mecca of snooker and I’ve just beaten the defending champion. I feel like if I play the way I did there and keep that up I can cause people some grief.
“When Mark nicked the frame to go 12-9 it reminded me of the Yushan final, but I just had a chuckle to myself and thought keep going. I was prepared to go for my shots all day. I wasn’t going to back down no matter what happened.”
Williams, asked about his chest pains, said: “I just couldn’t stick it yesterday, I didn’t know what it was. Mike Ganley (tournament director) phoned the doctor and said to go straight to A&E and get it checked out, so that’s what I did. I was there for a few hours. The doctors said they were 99 per cent sure it wasn’t a heart problem. I’m going to have some more tests when I go home now and see my own doctor.
“I just feel terrible, and I played how I feel, dreadful. I tried my best, but I just had nothing there for the whole match. I was needing two or three chances to win frames, and you’re not going to get them every frame. Dave played well, he made some cracking clearances and I couldn’t keep up with him.
“I have loved being introduced as defending champion, it’s just a shame I’ve got to go out this way. I tried my best, I could have easily given up and lost 13-3 or 13-4 but I stuck in there.”
On the other table Masters champion Judd Trump emerged with a 5-3 advantage against Chinese number one Ding Junhui.
World number seven Trump came through one of the matches of the tournament so far in the opening round, beating Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 10-9. While Ding booked his second round slot with a hard fought 10-7 win over Anthony McGill.
Trump composed breaks of 61, 57 and 50 on his way to earning a 5-1 lead. However, Ding will be happy to have kept himself in touch. He halted Trump’s run of four frames on the bounce by taking the fifth frame, before a break of 67 saw him end the session just two behind at 5-3.