Stuart Bingham launched the defence of his Betfred Masters title with a 6-4 victory over Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, while Shaun Murphy saw off Mark Williams by the same scoreline.
Day Two of the sport’s most illustrious invitational saw reigning champion Bingham and 2015 champion Murphy set up a Quarter-Final clash at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
Bingham, who defeated Ali Carter in last year’s final at Alexandra Palace, ensured there would be no shock early exit as he safely dispatched Thai debutant Un-Nooh.
It looked to be plain sailing for Bingham as he raced into a 5-1 lead, only for Un-Nooh to reel off three consecutive frames to launch a fightback.
Bingham, though, recovered well to eventually seal the deal and move through to the Last Eight of The Betfred Masters for only the third time in eleven appearances.
“Maybe I was a bit unlucky to go in off,” admitted Bingham. “That gave him an easy starter and then the onslaught started.
“I was sitting in my chair for about half an hour thinking, what have I done here?
“A bit stupid or a bit mad, so it was lucky for me. I’m over the moon to get a win.”
Bingham took the opening frame before following in with breaks of 63 and 114 to go three clear.
Un-Nooh got off the mark before the interval but only for Bingham to respond superbly with a break of 95 to make it 4-1.
A 35-minute sixth frame also went the way of ‘Ball Run’ as he moved to within one of victory, only to suffer a lapse in concentration which almost cost him dearly.
Bingham, who made a maximum break against Un-Nooh during last week’s Championship League, was 64 points in towards another 147, but lost position and went in-off on a red.
That handed Un-Nooh a lifeline, which he duly accepted and made a terrific 68 clearance to keep the match alive.
The quick-fire Thai cueist sparked into life from that moment onwards, adding consecutive breaks of 80 and 113 to claw back to within one.
Bingham, though, drew upon his vast experience to kill off any hopes of a miraculous turnaround with a 67 break to seal victory.
The number one seed will take on fellow former World Champion Murphy in Thursday’s Quarter-Finals after he battled past Williams in a high quality contest.
Williams produced two century breaks but could not get ahead of Murphy for the duration of the match as the world number eight progressed to the Quarter-Finals for the third time in four years.
“Any time you rock up against a player like Mark who has won everything in the game and got every shot in the book, they test every aspect of your game,” said Murphy.
“I knew going into that match, Mark would shine a bright light on any weaknesses I might show him.
“I was a bit frustrated through the game because I made all the running, at four-all you’re thinking ‘how have I lost four frames here?’
“I managed to put that to bed and when I got my chance in the end I was very proud of myself for the way I took the match.
“I went for the black [in frame four] more out of embarrassment than anything else, I played the pink up and down for safety and got it completely wrong!
“I just stood behind the black and thought, I’ve got to go for this now because the safety shot was quite tough as well and I’d just potted one very similar to this.”
Murphy took the opening frame with a break of 93 before Williams hit back superbly with a break of 108 to level.
A half century saw Murphy regain the lead, before defying a 54 break from Williams in the fourth to snatch it with a magnificent long black after fluking the final pink.
Williams, though, came out firing after the interval to land his second 108 clearance of the contest and go on to win frame six to restore parity.
The next two frames were shared before Murphy edged back in front courtesy of a break of 81, and despite Williams making the running with a 52 break in the tenth, it was Murphy who overturned the deficit to seal victory.
Betfred Masters 2021 Results
Monday January 11
Stuart Bingham 6-4 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Shaun Murphy 6-4 Mark Williams