Mark Williams edged out world number one Mark Selby 6-5 in a tremendous match as the Dafabet Masters got underway at Alexandra Palace.
A sell-out crowd in London were treated a superb contest and a dramatic finish as World Champion Selby missed a crucial last red in the deciding frame. That let Williams in to snatch victory and set up a quarter-final clash with Barry Hawkins or Kyren Wilson on Thursday evening (tickets still available – click here for details).
Welsh 42-year-old Williams has had a fine run of results in recent weeks having won the Northern Ireland Open in November – his first ranking title for six years – and climbed to tenth in the world. Selby, by contrast, has struggled for form since winning the International Championship two months ago, suffering early exits at the first two Triple Crown events of the season.
Williams was off to a flying start today with a break of 135 in the opening frame, missing the final black when he had the chance to set a strong target of 142 for the £10,000 tournament high break prize. He went 2-0 up with a run of 89 then Selby hit back to take the next three frames, making two breaks of 70.
Two-time Masters champion Williams made an 81 clearance to take the sixth frame but Selby dominated the next two with a top run of 76 to lead 5-3. And the Leicester cueman looked set for victory in frame nine until he missed the penultimate red to a top corner when leading 47-40 with the balls at his mercy, allowing Williams to clear for 5-4.
In frame ten, Williams led 59-32 when he ran out of position with two reds left. Selby twice went for a tricky red and missed, and his opponent took advantage to force the decider.
Williams had first chance and made 39 before missing a red to a top corner. Three-time Masters king Selby had an opportunity to clear and got to 44 before leaving a tough last red – along the top cushion – in the jaws of the pocket. Again Williams made no mistake as he reached the quarter-finals for the first time since 2013.
“It was an excellent game all round, a great occasion to play in, we both played well and the atmosphere was excellent,” said Williams, who lost 6-5 to Selby in the first round here last year. “They don’t come any tougher than the world number one. To draw myself together and come back was a great win for me.
“Two or three frames up against Selby is nothing, so I had to keep plugging away. I honestly don’t care who I play next, I’m in the quarters now and if I’m still here at the weekend then great.”
Selby, who had won 12 of his previous 13 deciders at the Masters, said: “I’m gutted. I felt I controlled the match from 2-0 down. At 5-3 I tried to roll the red in but got a kick and after that I felt the match could turn on that moment. I nearly pulled off a ridiculous clearance in the last frame but missed the last red. It’s tough to take.”