Stephen Maguire made one of the best comebacks of his career as he recovered a 5-1 deficit to beat Neil Robertson 6-5 in the first round of the Dafabet Masters.
World number five Robertson failed to capitalise on chances in the closing stages as he became the third player seeded among the top eight to fall so far at Alexandra Palace, following the exits of Ding Junhui and Mark Selby on Sunday. Glasgow’s Maguire is through to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2015 and will face Mark Allen or David Gilbert next.
World number 15 Maguire is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career having lifted trophies at the Six Red World Championship and World Cup as well as reaching the final of the UK Championship. But even he must have though his hopes of a run this week were over when Robertson cruised into a 5-1 lead with top breaks of 76, 136 and 71.
Maguire sparked his fight back in frame seven with a run of 105. The Scot trailed 56-0 in frame eight, but battled his way back and eventually got the better of a safety battle on the yellow then cleared for 5-3.
Robertson had another match-winning chance in the ninth and made 40 before failing to split the pack of reds from the blue. Maguire punished him with a 65 clearance. And a break of 81 in the next from Maguire draw him level at 5-5.
First clear chance in the decider went to Robertson and he made 28 before missing a tricky black. Maguire’s match-winning 62 included a risky do-or-die pot on the green on 20 when it looked as if he had run out of position.
“It was a tough green I took on to keep the break going – but I wasn’t going out playing safe today. If it went in, I fancied dishing up. If it didn’t, I’d be going home,” said 38-year-old Maguire. “I’ve played a few 5-5s and I know funny things can happen. I just went for everything and managed to win.
“I never show any emotion, but I gave it the fist there and nearly uppercut myself in the chin with that punch. It was stupid really, it’s not me. But it just shows you winning means a lot.
“It has to be one of the best comebacks of my career. I haven’t done that from 4-0 down much – I had one against Mark Williams at the UK Championship a couple of years ago. But that is right up there.
“Neil was the better player and should have put me to bed 6-1 or 6-0 after the interval. You don’t get these comebacks very often, so they’re special.”
Robertson said: “I was rusty because I hadn’t played a match for a while. I had chances, but played a couple of bad shots and got unlucky in splitting the pack at 5-3.”
Before the tournament, Robertson pledged to donate £5,000 plus an extra £100 for every century made during this week’s tournament to the WIRES Australian Wildlife Rescue Organisation in light of the current bushfires.
Today he added: “A couple of other players have pledged more donations which I really appreciate. I have been really emotional following what’s happening, especially as it’s close to where my family live. My mind is back home and it puts a game of snooker into perspective, though I don’t want to make any excuses about today’s result.”