Ding Junhui overcame compatriot Liang Wenbo 13-12 in a classic second round encounter at the Betfred World Championship.
The victory sets up a quarter-final showdown with five-time World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, who defeated Shaun Murphy 13-7 this morning.
Last year’s finalist Ding lead 9-7 at the start of play this afternoon, but momentum was on the side of the Firecracker. Liang put on a tremendous display of break-building yesterday evening, compiling runs of 84, 75, 130, 51 and 79 to claw himself back from 6-2 down.
The English Open Champion burst out of the blocks again today. Breaks of 58, 98 and 61 helped him to win three frames in a row and take the lead for the first time at 10-9. Ding was showing uncharacteristic signs of frustration at the table and seemed to be rattled by his compatriot. However, he took a vital frame before the mid-session to level at 10-10 and halt Liang’s surge into contention.
The ferocious break-building pace continued after the interval. Liang edged back ahead with a run of 85, before an immediate response from Ding as he made 80 to level at 11-11.
Liang moved 12-11 up and looked to be on the cusp of a huge victory over China’s top player. However, Ding showed tremendous resolve to make breaks of 132 and 70 and clinch victory in a superb contest 13-12.
“Liang played very well in the last two sessions. He made a lot of breaks and put me under pressure,” said the world number four. “I played well in the last few frames and found some form and concentration. I’m happy that I managed to play my best even at 12-11 down. I got the century first and that gave me confidence for the final frame. I have a good record in deciders and have more experience.”
“I have faced Ronnie in a few tournaments, but this time I want to show my best snooker. The reason I practise is because I want to play my best snooker against my heroes. I want to see how I can do, test myself and find out how good I am.”
“A lot of people will be interested in me playing Ronnie, but I don’t feel that when we are playing. The frames are more important than who is watching and I need concentration.”
Afterwards Liang was full of respect for his compatriot, who he backed to go one step further than he did in 2016.
“We played very well this match but I left a lot to do going 6-2 down. The second session I played better. Today I feel I tried too hard, I started very very good but he played well and is very clever. I enjoyed the match.
“I got a chance, but the last frame I got a double and the position was very diffficult and I couldn’t play safety but I missed and Ding was calm.
“He has a chance to win the World Championship. Last year he made it to the final he still has chance. This year he has more experience and is more confident. There are lots of good players here.”
Stephen Maguire put on a commanding display to lead Rory McLeod 6-2 after the first session of their second round tie.
The Scot made breaks of 67, 71 and 63 as he built up a four-frame cushion. They return for their second session tomorrow afternoon.