Ding Junhui held his nerve in an eventful encounter against Luca Brecel to book his place in the Semi-Finals of the 2019 Masters at Alexandra Palace on Thursday.
A bizarre moment saw Ding forfeit the ninth frame on the ‘three-miss’ rule, but he recovered to win the next two and continue his best run at The Masters since winning the tournament back in 2011.
Brecel had to contend with tip trouble for the duration of the contest after splicing his tip due to a miscue just moments before the start of the match and was eventually left to rue a golden missed opportunity in the deciding frame.
A relieved Ding admitted: “I’m trying to enjoy it more and not let the pressure not make me feel nice.
“It was crazy, it was dangerous to play it that way because there were two balls free.
“I thought a lot of how to play it and felt this was the best shot to play.
“Maybe I was too confident that I was going to hit it?”
Ding will now face his snooker idol Ronnie O’Sullivan in Saturday’s Semi-Finals and added: “It is a big test next and playing Ronnie is always special.
“You have to put everything into it, it is good for me as I want to play the best players.”
It was Brecel who took the first frame with a 63 break before Ding hit back in style with a magnificent 125 clearance to level.
Belgian ace Brecel responded with a break of 74 in frame three but only for Ding to counter with a 64 to square it up at two apiece.
A superb break of 87 handed Brecel the lead once more but Ding edged a narrow sixth before declaring a foul on himself in frame seven and allowing the 23-year-old to go on and make it 4-3.
Ding got back on track with a crowd-pleasing 105 break – the 16th century of this year’s Masters – before an incredible moment of drama saw him fail to make contact with a red on three consecutive occasions despite others being in view and therefore handing the frame on a plate to his opponent.
The Chinese ace, however, left the arena and returned to make a 57 and force a decider, and after Brecel squandered a simple pot to the middle pocket, Ding punished with a 65 to seal a dramatic win.
“It was very tough today,” admitted Brecel. “I just couldn’t get over the line – I had plenty of chances and hopefully I’ll take it the next time.
“Just before I had to go out into the arena, I played a screw shot on the yellow and I miscued and the whole tip was gone.
“I just played with it and I played okay. At the end of the interval Paul Collier [referee] repaired it a little bit but the tip wasn’t the fault of my loss today.
“It was difficult to refocus after that frame [Ding’s three misses] because when you win a frame you have a different mindset going into a 5-4 lead but I was gifted the frame.
“I made too many mistakes,” he added.