Mark Selby won an enthralling match 6-5 against Mark Williams in the first round of the Dafabet Masters to boost his hopes of holding all three Triple Crown titles simultaneously.
Once again the Alexandra Palace crowd was treated to a dramatic conclusion as this was the fourth consecutive afternoon match to go down to a decider. And Selby, renowned for his calmness under pressure, made a brilliant clearance having benefited from a stroke of bad luck for Williams who got a kick at a crucial moment in the last frame.
World number one Selby goes through to the quarter-finals to face Shaun Murphy or Barry Hawkins on Friday afternoon (tickets still available – click here for details).
And having won the World Championship in May and the UK Championship in December, Leicester’s Selby is looking to become the first player to have all three Triple Crown trophies on his mantelpiece since Williams himself won all three in the same season in 2002/03.
Welshman Williams won the opening frame with a break of 65 before Selby hit back with 139 – the new target for the £10,000 high break prize – 62 and 109 to lead 3-1. After the interval, Williams battled back to 3-3 and he had a chance to win frame seven but missed the final green, allowing Selby to clear and regain the lead.
A run of 50 gave Williams frame eight and again he had to chance to edge ahead, but missed the brown with the rest late in frame nine, letting Selby clear to go 5-4 up.
Breaks of 53 and 58 from Williams set up the decider, and he had first chance but made just 20 before suffering a kick when attempting to pot the blue to a baulk corner. It missed its target and that proved his last shot as Selby’s clinical 89 saw him home.
“When Mark got that chance in the last frame, I just thought I was going out,” said Selby. “I didn’t expect him to miss and if it wasn’t for the kick, I don’t think he would have done.
“Sometimes this season Mark’s played some great stuff and been back to his best in patches. I knew it was going to be a tough game and it turned out to be.
“I know how hard this tournament is to win. Every match you play is worthy of being a final. At 5-5 when he was in the balls I was thinking, there goes my ‘slam’ but thankfully enough I got a chance, so it’s still on.
“It’s got to be up there with one of my best breaks to win a match. Under the circumstances it was very pleasing.
“It would be an unbelievable feat to hold all three majors, in this day and age where the standard is. I’m still in the tournament now, so hopefully I can kick on and come Sunday I might be in there with a chance to do that. It’d probably be the greatest achievement of my career.”
Williams said: “He played fantastic and that’s why he’s world number one. He’s just class on and off the table. You can’t have a better player to represent our sport.
“I think the others like Ding, Trump and Robertson are excellent players, but they’re not in Mark’s league. He’s just miles above them and he could be number one in any era, he’s got everything.”