World number seven Ricky Walden became the first seed to be knocked out of the Betfred World Championship as he lost 10-8 to Graeme Dott.
Dott, who conquered the Crucible in 2006 and has been runner-up on two other occasions, came from 7-6 down to win four of the last five frames and set up a last 16 clash with Stuart Bingham or Robbie Williams.
Walden won the biggest title of his career earlier this season at the International Championship and also got to the final of last month’s Indian Open. But the Chester cueman was handed one of the toughest draws in gritty Dott, and ended up with his third first round defeat in five Crucible appearances.
Larkhall’s 37-year-old Dott has often produced his best form in Sheffield and clearly thrives on the longer formats, describing himself today as a “Grand National horse who is usually only running shorter races.”
Dott led 5-4 overnight and took the opening frame today, before Walden fought back with breaks of 78 and 104 for 6-6. Frame 13 came down to the colours, Walden clearing from green to pink to snatch it.
The Englishman looked set to go 8-6 ahead until he broke down on 53, and Dott made a superb 78 clearance to level at 7-7. The Scot dominated the next two frames with runs of 43 and 65 to go 9-7 ahead.
Walden got the better of a safety exchange on the yellow in frame 17 and cleared to pull one back. He led 35-0 in the next but Dott clawed his way back and looked set to clear until he missed the final yellow with the rest. Walden potted the yellow, but then sent the green flying off the table, trying to force position. Dott potted the green to go 25 points ahead and later added brown and blue to make sure.
“It was a good game,” said world number 19 Dott. “I played well and I’m delighted to win. At the start of the match, if you’d have told me that I was going to win after I was 3-1 down, I wouldn’t have fancied it. I wasn’t playing well at all.
“I had to go to the practice room and change something in my technique because I wasn’t getting through the ball properly, so I was delighted to come out of the season 5-4 up.
It was a kind of typical performance for me. I often feel that the other player is the better player, but I just hang in and hang in, and then eventually when the pressure is on I feel ok.
“I wasn’t here last year which was a horrible feeling. I couldn’t even watch the first week, I tried to avoid it. So it’s nice to know that I can actually still do it at the Crucible.”
A dejected Walden said: “It was a very close game in the end and Graeme deserved to win. He’s a tough draw, a former World Champion. But I wasn’t good enough throughout the match.
“I was a bit patchy throughout. I played well at times and struggled at times, I never really got a foothold in the game when it was needed. I let Graeme off a few frames and it cost me in the end.”
Fourth seed Neil Robertson raced into a 7-2 lead over Jamie Jones. Australia’s Robertson threatened to produce the second ever Crucible whitewash when he went 6-0 up, making a tournament-high break of 143 as well as 109 and 94.
Welshman Jones, making his first Crucible appearance since reaching the quarter-finals on his debut in 2012, pulled two frames back, but 2010 champion Robertson took the last of the session. He needs three more when they resume tomorrow at 2.30pm.