Luca Brecel halted Sam Craigie’s fightback to come through an enthralling final frame and win 4-3 on day one of the 888sport European Masters in Lommel.
The Belgian had the backing of a packed home crowd as he took to the arena for his opening tie in the first full ranking event to visit Belgium in 23 years. Brecel has an extra weight of expectation this week, having claimed his maiden ranking title at the China Championship in August. However, he has shown his steel under pressure this season, having faced eight deciding frames and won them all.
The tie, which was heldover from qualifying, looked to be going the way of Brecel in the early stages. He made a brilliant clearance of 67 to steal the third frame on the black and move 2-1 ahead. Brecel then claimed the fourth to go 3-1 up.
However, former World Under-21 Champion Craigie refused to fade away. A break of 65 helped him to reduce his arrears at 3-2, before he took the match to a decider.
The last frame mirrored the rest of the match, with Brecel looking to be home and dry, before Craigie hit back. The Englishman required two snookers to tie and got them to set up a nervy finale. However, Brecel eventually found a way over the line and faces Thor Chuan Leong in the next round.
Brecel said: “He laid some great snookers at the end and I was bang under it, as if I lost that game it wouldn’t have been nice. I’m very relieved,” said the world number 12.“It is a different pressure playing on home soil. You want to entertain the family and the friends. So it is good to be still in there fighting.”
World number one Mark Selby also survived a scare against Mark Joyce, emerging a 4-3 victor.
The pair battled out a fragmented opening to the encounter, trading frames until Selby imposed himself on the tie by compiling a century run of 109 to move 3-1 ahead. The Jester then spurned opportunities to get over the line in the fifth frame. Joyce punished him by potting a phenomenal cut on the blue (watch here) to set up a clearance which kept him in it at 3-2.
The 2010 UK Championship quarter-finalist Joyce forced a decider and was in first with a chance to win. However, he broke down and afforded Selby an opportunity to finally edge over the line. He showed his class and sealed victory with a break of 93.
Defending European Masters champion Judd Trump eased past European Amateur champion Chris Totten, thanks to a 4-0 whitewash.
The Ace in the Pack finished with a flourish, recording a century run of 101 to round off an impressive win.
Neil Robertson put on a superb display to secure his place in the next round, whitewashing Fang Xiongman 4-0.
The Thunder from Down Under, swept to victory in just over an hour. He showcased his break building power with runs of 76, 134, 80 and 100.
Despite a fine victory at the invitational Hong Kong Masters earlier this season, Robertson is in need of some strong ranking event showings in the lead up to the Masters in January. He currently lies provisionally 18th in the race to Alexandra Palace.
Robertson said: “I played great and have been practising really well since the start of the season. I didn’t really practise very much at all last year and suffered the consequences. I’m putting the work in and playing well. I do need to pick up ranking points to get into the Masters, but I have complete belief in my ability.”
Gerard Greene stunned last week’s Yushan World Open finalist Kyren Wilson 4-3.
Northern Ireland’s Greene regained his place on the World Snooker Tour by coming through the EBSA Playoffs last season. The 2014 Players Championship runner-up trailed 3-2, but snatched the final two frames on the colours to record an impressive win.