Stephen Maguire made a brilliant clearance in the deciding frame to beat Mark Williams 6-5 in the last 16 of the Betway UK Championship.
Ronnie O’Sullivan also booked his place in Friday’s quarter-finals in York by hammering Jack Lisowski 6-1. (Tickets for Friday still available – for details click here).
World Champion Williams let a 4-0 lead slip as his hopes of winning snooker’s two biggest ranking titles in the same year disappeared. Glasgow’s Maguire, who had told his father to “get the car ready” when he trailed 4-0 at the interval, produced one of the best fightbacks of his career as he set up a quarter-final with Mark Allen or Neil Robertson.
Maguire has struggled to find his best form in recent years, but has shown a significant improvement this season and is now guaranteed a place at the Masters for the first time since 2016 (for the Race to the Masters click here).
Welshman Williams made a top break of 81 in taking the first four frames, but Maguire was a different animal after the interval as he piled in runs of 122, 120, 109 and 97 to go 5-4 ahead. He had several chances to seal victory in frame ten, notably missing the final yellow when leading by 20 points. Handed a lifeline, Williams cleared for 5-5.
And two-time UK Champion Williams had first opportunity in the decider, making 33 before running out of position and playing safe. Maguire spotted a plant among the pack of reds and executed it perfectly to set up his chance. The last red was tight against a side cushion but he doubled it to a centre pocket and went on to make 63 to clinch the result.
“I’ve never made a comeback like that,” said 37-year-old Maguire. “For the first four frames I couldn’t have been any worse. I told my dad to get the car ready at the interval. It was 2.20pm so I thought we could be finished by 3pm and back in Glasgow by 7pm. I decided to pull the cue right back and hope for the best. To get back to 4-3 I kept him off the table. I have been in his position and no one likes their opponent coming back at him.
“I twitched the yellow at 5-4 when I thought the game was done. When I had the double on the red in the last frame I just went for it because I had decided at 4-0 I was going to go for everything. I am free-rolling now because I should have been out. I am going to keep playing the same way in my next match.
“It’s a big scalp for me because I haven’t been challenging the top boys so to beat the World Champion when he has been playing well – it doesn’t get better than that.”
Defending champion O’Sullivan, celebrating his 43rd birthday today, needed just 87 minutes to beat Lisowski as he continued his pursuit of a record seventh UK title. He now meets Martin O’Donnell or Ding Junhui.
After losing the first frame, O’Sullivan reeled off six in a row with breaks of 88, 118, 112 and 68. Lisowski must now sweat on other results to find out whether he has earned a Masters debut; Tom Ford could edge him out by winning the tournament and Joe Perry can do the same by reaching the final.
O’Sullivan said: “I know how dangerous Jack is and what a great season he has had. He reminds me of myself when I first came on to the scene because he pots some amazing balls and can play any shot in the book but misses a few easy ones. That’s why I didn’t do as well in my early career as I do now, I couldn’t cut out missing the easy ones and you can’t afford to do that and win consistently. I get super nervous before matches but you have to learn how to perform under pressure.
“I haven’t played great this week, I think that is obvious. My consistency is better. I’m going through a transition period working with (coach) Steve Feeney and SightRight. I believe in the changes I am making but there is a difference between practice form and taking it out to the match table. Although I won five titles last season I was pretty poor, I only played one good tournament at the English Open. At the World Championship I felt I couldn’t pot a ball from more than two feet. So I knew I needed to reinvent myself and find a game to allow me to compete. The changes I am making are giving me more power, more accuracy and opening up a range of shots I haven’t been able to play.
“I’ve always got my eyes on the biggest prizes which is why I’m always looking to improve. I’ve always been as dedicated as a pro as anyone in their chosen sport. People just say I’m talented but they should come and watch me practise and see what I go through. Even the other lads at the club say they’ve never seen anyone play with the same intensity as me. I might not play for six or seven hours a day, but I’ll do two or three where I’m in the zone and very focused.”