Ricky Walden avoided a shock exit in the first round of the Betfred World Championship as he came from 7-5 down to beat Robbie Williams 10-8.
Walden has shown excellent form in recent weeks, reaching the final of the Players Championship and China Open, but he looked in danger of an early exit at the Crucible when Williams took control of the North West derby.
But world number nine Walden, a semi-finalist in Sheffield in 2013, won five of the last six frames to set up a last 16 encounter with John Higgins or Ryan Day.
Williams, ranked 57th, led 5-4 overnight and shared the first two frames today before winning the next on the colours to go 7-5 up. Chester’s Walden vitally won a scrappy 13th frame then found some rhythm as breaks of 70, 53 and 68 put him 9-7 ahead. Williams refused to lie down and made a superb 104 in the next, but Walden sealed victory in frame 18 with an 87.
“It was a really tough game,” said three-time ranking event winner Walden. “There were lots of nerves and tension out there, the first session was probably one of the worst you could be involved in.
“It was a struggle for both of us, I managed to get hold of the game in the end. I’m really pleased to come through that, I was getting frustrated, but I felt focused towards the end.
“I played pretty good stuff after the interval tonight, I felt like I was making reasonable one visit snooker.
“If it is Higgins next then it’s going to be a monster game. He’s one of the all time greats, you’ve got to play well to beat him. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Williams said: “I’m relieved to be out actually, the way I felt throughout that whole match, it was torture. I can’t put myself through that again.
“There were times when we were missing stupid shots, particularly in the first session. Even at 9-8 I felt I was out of it, like there was no way back. People were cheering me on, but its not a nice place to be in.
“I’ve got to get better. I feel like the least talented player at the tournament, I felt embarrassed at times. By the time next season comes around I’ll be in the right frame of mind, but today I was 7-5 ahead and I felt behind.”