John Higgins became the latest top star to drop out of the Betway UK Championship as he let chances slip in the last two frames and lost 6-5 to Mark King.
Defeat for world number five Higgins means that of the 14 players left in the tournament in York, only Ronnie O’Sullivan, Shaun Murphy and Mark Allen are ranked among the top 16.
Higgins, winner of three UK titles and 29 ranking events, admitted he suffered a “total malfunction” in the closing stages. It was world number 21 King who held his nerve and set up a quarter-final with Murphy or Ricky Walden.
From 2-1 down, Wishaw’s Higgins won the fourth frame with a break of 80 then got the two snookers he needed to snatch the fifth. He also won the next by clearing from yellow to pink and looked to be in control at 4-2.
Romford’s King, who won his first ranking title at the Northern Ireland Open last season, fought back and won the next two frames for 4-4. Higgins regained the lead then had a chance for victory in frame ten but missed the last red to a top corner when trailing by six points, and King took advantage for 5-5.
In the decider, Higgins had two early opportunities but could only muster 17 points, and his opponent made an excellent 69 which proved enough.
“When I got my chance I thought just be positive, strike the ball nicely and make sure you don’t miss anything easy,” said 43-year-old King. “I was in good position the whole time and I was pretty calm and confident. I’m delighted to win it.
“Even at 4-2 down I was saying ‘just enjoy it’ – if the worst comes to the worst I’d be on the train home tonight to go and see the family– there’s no better feeling than going home to them. Hopefully they’ll be coming up at the weekend. It’s nice not to have to worry about playing the bills. It’s nice just to play your game and enjoy it.”
Higgins said: “When you start collapsing like that there was only one way it was going to go. It probably should have given me momentum when I was 4-2 in front but he came back stronger and I was just dreadful the whole game.
“From 5-4 it was a total malfunction. There’s just some things you can’t explain and that was a malfunction on every single shot, I couldn’t pot a ball.”
Stephen Maguire won a tartan tussle against Graeme Dott by a 6-2 scoreline to set up a match with Joe Perry or Mark Allen. It’s Maguire’s first ranking quarter-final since he lost to Ryan Day in the final of the Riga Masters in June.
Breaks of 72, 57 and 116 helped Maguire go 4-1 up. Dott pulled one back but 2004 UK Champion Maguire took the next two frames to cross the winning line.
“That’s the best I’ve felt since I’ve been down here,” said Maguire after reaching his ninth quarter-final in this event. “I knew it was going to be a tough match because he’s gritty and he doesn’t give up but I think I controlled the match from the word go. I don’t know if it’s the time of year or something but I do seem to do well at this tournament.”
As for his next match, Glasgow’s Maguire added: “I don’t look at the draw, that’s the way I’ve been brought up. I always just think if I play well and I fancy the job that’s great. If I play bad I will lose, it’s as simple as that.”
Dott said: “Stephen thoroughly deserved to win. I just couldn’t control the white. I kept losing position every time I got in. He certainly played a lot better than I did.”
Maguire and King are both still in contention in the race to the Masters though each must reach the final to have a chance.