Stephen Maguire is just two frames away from a place in the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship having taken an 11-5 lead over Zhao Xintong.
There was a brief interruption towards the end of the session when a pigeon flew into the Crucible and landed on the table where Mark Selby was up against Yan Bingtao. The bird – which fortunately did not feather the cue ball – was ushered out of the arena, caught and safely released outside without being harmed.
Maguire started the day 5-3 up on China’s Zhao and took six of the eight frames to close in on a match with Ronnie O’Sullivan or Mark Allen. The Scot had to come through qualifying to reach the Crucible, having slipped to 40th in the world rankings, but is now on the brink of his first quarter-final appearance since 2019.
China’s Zhao lost the opening frame today but hit back in the next when he got the snooker he needed on the final pink with an excellent shot to trap his opponent behind the black, then converted a thumping long pot on the pink and added the black.
But Cazoo UK Champion Zhao then lost his rhythm and made several unforced mistakes as Maguire pulled away. Breaks of 64 and 82 put the Glaswegian 8-4 ahead at the interval. Zhao pulled one back with a run of 72, but Maguire dominated frame 14 then won the 15th with a break of 61.
In the last frame of the session, Zhao led 42-12 when he missed a straight-forward pot on the third-last red to a top corner. Maguire punished him with a 44 clearance to extend his advantage. They return at 10am on Saturday with first to 13 to reach the last eight.
On the other table, defending champion Selby came from 4-2 down to level at 4-4 against Yan. China’s Yan is aiming to reach the quarter-finals for the first time, while world number two Selby is looking to continue his quest for a fifth world title.
Selby took the opening frame with a break of 54 and he led 67-0 in the second, but Yan clawed his way back and took it with a 38 clearance. Former Masters champion Yan made a 104 in frame three and took the fourth on the colours to lead 3-1.
After the interval, Selby pulled one back, but a fine 36 clearance from his opponent made it 4-2. Leicester’s Selby battled to win a scrappy seventh frame, and finished the session with his highest break of the day, 83, to draw level. They return on Saturday at 10am for eight more frames. Mark Williams awaits in the next round.