Wilson Relieved To Win Geordie Joust
Gary Wilson admitted his North East derby with Elliot Slessor got “too close for comfort” when he almost let slip a 7-1 lead, but eventually came through 10-8 to reach the second round of the Cazoo World Championship.
This has been a momentous season for Wilson as he won his first ranking title at the Scottish Open and is now playing as one of the top 16 seeds at the Crucible for the first time. But the campaign almost finished on a low note as Slessor threatened a remarkable comeback. Eventually, Wilson rounded off the tie with a century in the 18th frame and goes through to face Mark Selby or Matthew Selt in the last 16.
If he meets Selby, then 37-year-old Wilson will have no fear as he beat the four-time Crucible king on his way to the semi-finals in 2019, also knocking out Luca Brecel and Ali Carter before losing to Judd Trump.
Slessor trailed 7-1 before taking the last frame of this morning’s session, and got the start he needed tonight as breaks of 70 and 90 reduced his deficit to 7-4. In frame 12, Wilson led 50-31 when he trapped his opponent in a difficult snooker on the last red, and Slessor gave away 16 penalty points before leaving the red available for Wilson to make it 8-4.
World number 60 Slessor continued to battled and pulled one back with a run of 82, but his hopes faded when he lost an epic hour-long 14th frame. It came down to a long safety battle on the colours, and Slessor potted the brown but then missed the blue to a centre pocket. Wilson then laid a snooker on the blue and, from the chance that followed, potted it for 9-5.
In the 15th, Wallsend’s Wilson was just four pots from victory when he missed the black off the last red, leading 47-38. Slessor cleared to keep his hopes alive then rattled in runs of 76 and 69 to close to 9-8. But Wilson stayed calm and took his chance with a superb break of 109.
“I squandered the chance to win 10-5 which was a shock, and after that I could see my lead dwindling and it was too close for comfort,” admitted 15th seed Wilson. “I was sitting in my chair watching Elliot and there wasn’t much I could do. He had the momentum. So when I got the chance in the last frame I was determined to keep it simple and not mess it up.
“I have known Elliot for a long time and he’s a very good all-round player. He knows he just has to tighten up on his temperament and he has got Peter Ebdon in his corner to try to achieve that.”
Slessor said: “I was garbage in the first session. The crowd was amazing but I’m devastated that I didn’t give them much to cheer about. Tonight I went for a few more and made a game of it, but I lost every single scrappy frame.”
On the other table, qualifier Joe Perry surged into a lead 7-2 lead over Welsh Open champion Robert Milkins who – like Wilson – is competing as a seed for the first time in his career. They return on Thursday morning at 9.30am, Perry needing just three more frames to set up a meeting with Shaun Murphy or Si Jiahui.
Milkins failed to pot a ball in the first two frames as Perry went 2-0 up with a top break of 57. In frame three, Milkins led 59-22 when he missed the pink to a centre pocket, and that proved costly as Perry later made an excellent colours clearance to extend his lead. A run of 65 made it 4-0 at the interval.
In the fifth, Perry trailed 60-0, but battled his way back into the frame, then snookered his opponent on the last red which created the chance to clear and go five up. Milkins took two of the next three as he clawed his way back to 6-2, but Perry finished strongly with the highest break of the session, 83, to confirm the commanding lead.