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Improving Williams Into Last 16

Mark Williams’ bid to win snooker’s two biggest ranking titles in the same year gathered pace as he beat Noppon Saengkham 6-3 at the Betway UK Championship.

World Champion Williams is into the fourth round in York and will take on Stephen Maguire on Wednesday or Thursday.

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After winning the Yushan World Open in August, Welshman Williams suffered a dip in form, failing to reach the quarter-finals of the next four ranking events. But he looks to be in good shape this week as he targets his first UK title since 2002.

Thailand’s Saengkham made a break of 119 in the opening frame tonight before Williams won four in a row with runs of 54, 72 and 112. Saengkham fought back to 4-3 but Williams won the eighth frame then cleared from the last red in the ninth to seal victory.

“I played well, my form is getting better and I’m feeling more comfortable,” said world number two Williams. “I’m still missing some easy balls here and there but apart from that my game is improving.

“I watched a bit of Stephen Maguire’s match on the next table. There was a lot of huffing and puffing, banging the cues and punching the tables, I was having a chuckle to myself. I’m assuming it will be the same when we play. Stephen is playing a lot better than he has done for a few years. But I’m not bothered who I play.”

Maguire saw off Ali Carter 6-3 with top breaks of 62, 77, 73 and 77. Glasgow’s Maguire, who won this title back in 2004, has shown consistent form this season, notably reaching the semi-finals of the Riga Masters and English Open. Tonight’s result also boosts his position in the Race to the Masters.

Martin O’Donnell had never previously won a match in this tournament but is now through to the fourth round thanks to a 6-4 win over Tian Pengfei. London’s O’Donnell is having his best season so far, having reached two ranking quarter-finals, and he will make it three if he beats Ding Junhui or Xiao Guodong.

He took a 4-0 lead tonight with top breaks of 77 and 79, and despite being hauled back to 4-3, he took two of the last three frames with runs of 88 and 59.

“I didn’t panic when he came back to 4-3 because I know I’m in good form so I stayed patient,” said London’s O’Donnell. “My record here is absolutely dreadful so it’s lovely to feel part of the tournament this time. I have been playing well for a long time and this season I have been consistent and getting little breaks here and there.

“I would love a crack at Ding next, to take on the top players in the big tournaments is what I practise for. Hopefully if that happened it would be on the TV table.”

Joe Perry was in fine form in a 6-2 win over Joe O’Connor, compiling runs of 100, 127 and 109. He now faces Judd Trump or Mark King.