Ryan Day made a century in the deciding frame to beat John Higgins 6-5 in the first round of the Dafabet Masters – setting up a possible quarter-final with Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Both matches on the opening day at Alexandra Palace went to a deciding frame, with Luca Brecel beating Mark Allen 6-5 earlier. And two of the top five seeds have crashed out early.
Scotland’s Higgins was making his 25th consecutive appearance in a tournament which has tended to bring him feast or famine over that quarter-century. He has won the title twice but has also suffered 13 first round exits.
Welshman Day has never been to the semi-finals of this event but he will make that breakthrough if he beats Ronnie O’Sullivan or Stuart Bingham on Thursday afternoon. Tickets for certain sessions still available – click here for details.
World number four Higgins made a 25 clearance to take the opening frame then compiled a break of 65 to win the second. Day pulled one back then Higgins took the fourth on the colours to lead 3-1 at the interval.
Runs of 52, 111 and 83 saw Day win three in a row as he went 4-3 ahead. Higgins got the better of a scrappy eighth, but missed a crucial pink to a centre pocket at the end of a 35-minute ninth. Day slotted in the pink and black to lead 5-4. Back came Higgins with runs 49 and 28 of to set up the decider.
A cracking long red gave Day his chance and he showed his quality in a flawless 128 total clearance.
World number 13 Day, who won a trio of titles last season at the Riga Masters, Gibraltar Open and Romanian Masters, said: “It was great to finish the match with one hit like that in the deciding frame, and from 3-1 behind, I’m delighted to get the win. After the interval I had a burst of frames to get myself in front which was pretty good. It went a bit messy from there to 5-5 but it was a good way to finish.
“I have been playing with a sore arm and 20 minutes before the game today it was painful. But once the match started the adrenaline took over. I think it’s just ‘snooker shoulder’ – a bit of wear and tear.
“It would be massive to play Ronnie in a big tournament, a big arena. To pit myself against the greatest player would be something I’d look forward to. But he will have a tough game first against Stuart.”
Higgins said: “That’s twice he’s done that against me this year. At the Shanghai Masters it was 5-5, I broke off and Ryan knocked a long one in and cleared up. Every credit to him for doing that tonight under extreme pressure. It was the right result, he played a lot better than me tonight. I was pretty bad.”