World number 16 Yan Bingtao staved off a brave Elliot Slessor fightback to win 10-7 in a tense first round clash at the Betfred World Championship.
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It had looked set to be a straightforward afternoon for China’s 20-year-old Yan, who held a hefty 7-1 advantage after yesterday’s first session. However, Crucible debutant Slessor came charging back this afternoon and exerted heavy pressure on the Asian number two.
Yan eventually got over the line and is through to the last 16 of snooker’s biggest tournament for the first time, where he will meet defending champion Judd Trump.
Yan fired a break of 67 in today’s opener to extend his lead to 8-1. The next two were shared then Gateshead’s Slessor reduced his arrears to 9-3 at the interval with a sublime break of 123.
From that point world number 69 Slessor began work his way back towards contention. A gritty clearance of 40 helped him steal the first frame after the interval on the black. In a dramatic finish to the 14th frame, Yan inadvertently knocked the black in after potting what would have been a match ball green. Slessor cleared from green to pink to pull within four frames at 9-5. He then cranked up the heat further by taking the 15th frame to make it 9-6.
A break of 57 saw Slessor make it 9-7 and spark genuine hopes of a remarkable fightback. However, a relieved Yan hauled himself over the line by taking a tightly contested 36-minute frame to win 10-7.
“I was getting a bit nervous near the end and I was very glad to win when I did,” said Riga Masters champion Yan. “If I had lost the last frame we would have had to come off at 9-8 and I did not want to come back later in the evening.”
Yan was asked about an incident in the 14th frame when he accidentally smashed a glass by knocking it to the floor. “It was a tight space with the chairs and the table,” he said. I was trying to step back and get out of Elliot’s way but I knocked the glass with my leg. After that I bumped into the table again so it’s lucky they hadn’t replaced the glass or I would have broken two.”
Meanwhile, tenth seed Shaun Murphy is in danger of a surprise defeat as he trails Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham 6-3.
In the last four years, Murphy has lost twice in the first round and twice in the second round, and if he is to avoid another early exit he’ll need to win seven of the last ten frames when they return on Tuesday morning.
Murphy, the 2005 World Champion, took the opening frame and looked set to add the second until he missed a red to a top corner on a break of 67. That proved a turning point as Saengkham cleared with 64 then took the next three frames with top runs of 67 and 59 to lead 4-1.
Breaks of 75 and 101 brought Murphy back to 4-3 but he then lost a 42-minute eighth frame as world number 42 Saengkham got the better of a safety exchange on the blue. And the last frame of the session went Saengkham’s way too, giving him a handy overnight advantage.