Mark Williams reached the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship for the first time in five years by beating Michael Holt 13-8.
Williams, Champion in 2000 and 2003, trailed 4-1 early in the match but grew stronger as it progressed as he went through to a meeting with Ding Junhui or Judd Trump.
Welsh 41-year-old Williams has had a disappointing season; this is his first ranking event quarter-final since the Shanghai Masters last September and he had lost his opening match in three consecutive ranking events before heading to Sheffield. But the world number 13 looks to have saved his best of the campaign until last and will be confident of at least matching his 2011 run to the semi-finals.
Williams led 10-6 overnight and won the first frame today with a break of 50. Holt, playing in his first Crucible quarter-final since 2005, took the next two with 75 and 109 and looked to be gathering momentum until he unluckily went in-off when potting the black on 56 in frame 20. Williams clawed his way back into the frame and eventually won it on the colours to make it 12-8 at the interval. That snuffed out Holt’s hopes of a fight back and Williams settled the result with a run of 58 in the next frame.
“In the first session I had a miracle to get out 4-4, I could have easily have been 6-2 or 7-1 down,” admitted Williams. “From then on I played quite well, I was solid and kept him under pressure.
“I was struggling at 4-1 down, then I got lucky to win a couple of close frames. When you’re having a bad session you just have to see how many frame you can pinch.
“I’m just happy to be here instead of watching the quarter-finals at home. To still be involved at this stage is great for me. I’ve been here for so long, I’ve got to enjoy it – and if I keep up the way I am playing I’ll be tough to beat.
“Trump and Ding are both quality players, it’s the toss of a coin who is going to win that game. I’m just glad I’ve got through and I can watch them sweat it out now.”
Nottingham’s Holt said: “The frame before the interval was a killer when I had a chance to make it 11-9. I don’t know how the white went in-off.
“Even though I sound such a loser saying it, I have to take positives from the fact that I felt so comfortable out there. I’m so gutted because I really felt that I could have gone deep into the event. That’s disappointing for the right reasons.
“This season I’ve made improvements and next year I’d like to come here with a title under my belt, then I would feel more prepared to have a crack at it. I’ve had worst defeats than this, overall I’m happy and in a really good place.
“Mark’s always got a chance of winning it, anybody with that much bottle has got a great chance.”
Meanwhile, tournament favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan looks to be facing a tough second round battle against Barry Hawkins as he trails 5-3 after their first session. It’s a repeat of the 2013 final which O’Sullivan won 18-12, as well as this season’s Masters final which O’Sullivan won 10-1.
In a high quality start to the match, Hawkins made breaks of 54 and 102 in the first and third frames, while O’Sullivan knocked in 139, 88 and 103 to lead 3-2. Hawkins then finished the session strongly by taking the next three frames with top runs of 43, 49 and 43 to give himself a handy lead going into the second session on Sunday afternoon.