Barry Hawkins narrowly avoided what would have been a devastating defeat at the Betfred World Championship, beating Matthew Selt 10-9.
World number five Hawkins, runner-up at the Crucible in 2013 and a semi-finalist last year, was hauled back from 9-4 to 9-9 before eventually taking the deciding frame to set up a last 16 clash with Mark Allen or Ryan Day.
Earlier this season, Ditton-based Hawkins suffered a 6-5 defeat against Nigel Bond at the UK Championship after squandering a 5-0 lead. He was also the victim of a fight-back in the quarter-finals here last year when Dominic Dale came from 11-5 down to 12-12, though on that occasion Hawkins prevailed 13-12.
And this time the two-time ranking event winner was massively relieved to stay in the tournament.
It’s a terrible feeling when someone is coming back at you, there’s nothing worse,” said Hawkins. “You see your lead disappearing and your opponent growing in confidence, and bouncing around the table. It’s a horrible place to be.
“I had to keep telling myself that I’m one of the top players, and to keep believing. I tried to stay as calm as I could.
“I couldn’t help but think back to the match against Bond at the UK. You think of what people are going to say afterwards – that you’ve got clincher’s disease. It’s hard to keep your composure. But I don’t think anyone can say I’ve got no bottle now.”
Romford’s Selt, who had only made one previous appearance at the Crucible, trailed 7-2 overnight but won the first two frames today with breaks of 64 and 50 to close the gap. Hawkins responded with 79 and 88 to restore his five-frame cushion, making it 9-4 at the interval.
Selt stormed back to win five frames in a row, firing runs of 61, 51, 102, 109 and 94 for 9-9. He went for a long red early in the decider but missed his target. Hawkins made 32 then played safe, before potting a long red and adding 43 which proved enough.
Selt said: “I threw away a couple of frames in the first session, I should have been 5-4 down rather than 7-2. Once it was 9-4 I decided to go all-guns blazing and attack. It was a tough red I went for in the last frame, but I felt if I got it I could go on and win. If you’d said at 9-4 I would have a shot to win the match, I’d have to go for it.”
Robbie Williams gave himself hope of a first win at the Crucible by taking a 5-4 lead over Stuart Bingham. There was never more than one frame between them in a high quality session, Williams knocking in runs of 68, 51, 59 and 67, while Bingham made 68, 61, 82 and 82. They play to a finish tonight from 7pm.