Neil Robertson produced a phenomenal fightback to down world number one Mark Selby 9-8 on the final black and reach the semi-finals of the Coral Tour Championship in Llandudno.
Selby had built a commanding 6-2 advantage after a fine performance in this afternoon’s opening session. However, it was Australia’s Robertson who reeled the Englishman in and eventually forced a dramatic and gruelling decider.
With colours and reds glued to the cushion, the final frame lasted one hour and five minutes, coming down to the very last ball. Following missed chances by both players on the black, Selby afforded Robertson an opportunity after he jawed a double to the middle. 2010 World Champion Robertson sunk his chance to the same middle pocket and clinched the frame and the match.
The clash came just days after Robertson and his fiancée Mille celebrated the birth of their second child, a girl called Penelope. The world number eight now plans to return home to Cambridge and be with his family for a couple of days, before contesting his semi-final on Friday against either Mark Allen or Kyren Wilson.
World number one Selby must now wait to see if he will hold on to his place at the summit of the world rankings beyond this week. The Leicester potter has occupied top spot since February 2015, however if Ronnie O’Sullivan wins the title he will overtake him.
Following Selby’s dominant performance this afternoon, Robertson came out firing to apply the pressure this evening. He took the first three frames, with breaks of 90 and 71 along the way, to pull within one at 6-5. Three-time Crucible winner Selby then missed the final pink in the 12th frame to stop the rot, allowing Robertson to deposit the last two balls and draw level at 6-6 going into the mid-session.
Robertson took the lead for the first time since the fourth frame at 7-6. Despite losing five frames on the bounce, Selby dug deep to restore parity, coming from three snookers behind to clinch the 14th frame on the black. The Englishman then moved one from victory at 8-7, after a fine break of 53 with the balls in awkward positions. However, Robertson forced the decider with a century run of 135 and sealed the match in the nerve-shredding last frame.
“I certainly didn’t look like winning at 6-2 down. I just had to come out fighting tonight,” said Robertson. “Mille gave birth a couple of days ago, so my mind was elsewhere many times today. I just thought if I got beat it would be alright and I could go home and get ready for the China Open. However, I have always got that belief in me.
“It was very pleasing that I went toe to toe with him in the safety department. That is what you have to do if you encounter players like Mark or John Higgins. You can’t win every frame in one visit and that gives me a lot of confidence going forward as well.”
Ronnie O’Sullivan opened up a 6-2 lead over Stuart Bingham to move into pole position in their quarter-final clash.
The encounter could have had a different outlook after the opening session, with Bingham spurning blacks off the spot in three of the frames he lost.
One of those misses came in the opening frame and it was a mistake which O’Sullivan punished to the full. The Rocket made his 1000th career century in the decisive frame of his recent Coral Players Championship victory and he picked up where he left off today, compiling a run of 111 to move 1-0 up.
O’Sullivan then edged further in front, before breaks of 55 and 90 helped Bingham to make it 2-2 at the mid-session.
The Rocket was electric when they returned, he swept up the remaining frames with breaks of 113, 121 and 89 to secure a commanding 6-2 lead.