Neil Robertson was just a few balls away from defeat at the Coral UK Championship but eventually prevailed 6-5 over Kyren Wilson to reach the last 32.
PICTURES by Tai Chengzhe
By Mark Rawlinson
Defending champion Robertson was in deep trouble he trailed 5-4 with his opponent in the balls to seal the win, but world number 63 Wilson was unable to convert the opportunity. Australia’s Robertson forced a decider then showed his class by knocking in an 86 break to seal the match and a meeting with Peter Ebdon.
He also kept alive his hopes of taking over from Mark Selby as world number one, as defeat today for Robertson would have meant that Ding Junhui would take top spot in the rankings.
“I certainly made it very tough for myself and it goes down as one of my worst performances in a BBC event,” admitted Robertson. “It can be a bit difficult to motivate yourself in the first couple of rounds and sometimes when everything doesn’t fall into place it can be hard.
“I just made unnecessary errors today, my safety was absolutely awful. Once I got in I was scoring ok but it’s funny how with leading players in any sport, when you’re so close to defeat, you produce your best.”
The first eight frames were shared, Robertson making breaks of 90, 65 and 58 while Wilson top scored with 56. The underdog from Kettering then made an excellent 87 clearance in frame nine to go 5-4 up, and he had a clear chance in the next but missed a tricky yellow on 35. He later fluked the last red, but failed to gain position on the brown and it was Robertson who took brown and blue for 5-5. And the former World Champion needed just one chance in the last frame.
Robertson also paid tribute to Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes, who died last Thursday, by taking a cricket bat out with him into the arena.
“I noticed a lot of other Australian sportsmen doing it over the weekend so it was nice to be able to play tribute to Hughes,” he said. “It was a really good opportunity for me to show respect for him and his family.
“I could see the bat every time I was walking back to my chair and I was just trying to motivate myself. It certainly did help, especially in the last two frames because I really dug in.”
Wilson was pleased to have competed with the world number two but believes he should have killed the match off for a 6-4 win.
He said: “I wasn’t nervous at 5-4 at all but you’ve got to take the chance and if you don’t you get punished. One visit from him in the decider, it’s as simple as that, I was not good enough in the decider.”
Mark Allen is also through to the third round following a 6-0 win over Luca Brecel. The Antrim left-hander felt he had to keep things tight against the young Belgian and his tactics paid off with a convincing win – the Pistol hit top breaks of 64, 55 and 84 to secure the victory.
“I had a game plan today to not take any silly shots on because Luca is not the kind of player you want to let build up confidence,” said Allen. “He’s a very streaky player and I knew if he got a few frames on the board then he’d be hard to stop.
“I turned down a few tricky ones early doors and didn’t miss much when I was in the balls which made it hard for him really.
“I turned down a red in the middle that I would normally go for – even against some of the top players I would have gone for it but I didn’t want to give Luca any kind of chance easily, I wanted to make him work for it. I felt like I stuck to my game plan pretty well.”
2004 UK Champion Stephen Maguire had to dig deep at 3-0 down to Yu Delu, but managed to turn things around, making top breaks of 66 and 62 to win 6-4.
Ken Doherty also fought back from 3-0 down as he defeated Michael White 6-4. The three-time UK Championship finalist making breaks of 73, 109 and 52 to progress.
Elsewhere, Mark Davis defeated Liam Highfield 6-4, whilst Peter Ebdon secured a third round match with Neil Robertson by beating Norwegian Kurt Maflin 6-1.
Rod Lawler battled back from a 5-4 deficit to beat Martin Gould 6-5 whilst Rory McLeod also won a decider as he downed Zhang Anda.