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Zhao Xintong stuns John Higgins at the UK Championship as big names continue to fall

Jamie Shaw in UK Championship

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UK Championship Snooker 2021 | Day Six Preview and Order of Play

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UK Championship Snooker 2021 | Day Seven Preview and Order of Play

Higgins and Zhao shake hands (Photo by ChinaImages/SIPA USA/PA Images)

Zhao Xintong pulled off a sensational scalp of John Higgins in the Third Round of the 2021 UK Championship in York on Monday.

The 24-year-old, who had previously never been beyond the Last 32 stage at the York Barbican, recovered from 3-1 and 5-3 down to prevail in a last-frame decider.

The Chinese ace will now await the winner of the tie between Sam Craigie and Peter Lines in the Last 16 on Wednesday.

“It was a great match. John is a legendary player and it is difficult to beat him,” said Zhao.

“He gave me an easy chance in the last frame. I needed to finish it off and I did it.”

After Zhao had taken the opening frame, Higgins levelled with a break of 80 and moved 2-1 ahead, before defying a break of 70 from his young opponent to snatch frame four and extend his lead.

A break of 68 after the interval kept Zhao in touch, and after Higgins had make it 4-2, the world number 26 replied with a superb break of 110.

Higgins, though, moved within a frame of victory courtesy of a 67 break but Zhao dug deep to clinch back-to-back frames and force a decider.

Three-time UK Champion Higgins was kept off the table as Zhao delivered a nerveless break of 83 to seal a famous victory.

Higgins admitted: “I was nowhere near on it. I’m gutted.”

Meanwhile, Ronnie O’Sullivan remained in pursuit of an eighth UK Championship title after a 6-3 victory over Mark King.

O’Sullivan, who went into the match with an inferior head-to-head record against King, produced breaks of 108, 70, 84, 63 and 53 to deny the former Northern Ireland Open champion.

“I am pleased to be through, Mark is a tough player so I just had to focus,” O’Sullivan told BBC Sport.

“I am trying, I have been playing exhibition snooker since the World Championship and that is not good enough for the nitty gritty.

“I haven’t got long now and this is one last effort to see how it goes. I am trying to take one ball at at a time. The result is irrelevant, I just want to apply myself.

“I never look at the draw, I have no interest in it. I don’t care who I play, but do I enjoy everything I do. I have fathomed a way that works for me. I enjoy how I have life at the moment.”

O’Sullivan will now face Noppon Saengkham in the Last 16 after the Thai star held off a remarkable fightback from Stuart Bingham to prevail in a last-frame decider.

Saengkham stormed into a 5-0 lead with breaks of 61, 131, 53, 64 and 56 before Bingham battled back with breaks of 52, 72 and 69 to force a decider.

However, the 2015 World Champion could only sit and admire as Saengkham sealed the deal in sensational style with a break of 121.

Fifth seed Kyren Wilson avoided any such upset as he saw off 18-year-old Wu Yize 6-3 with a top break of 115 along the way.

World number 102 Andy Hicks continued his resurgent run by edging out Dominic Dale 6-5 to reach the Last 16 for the first time since 2004.

The 1995 semi-finalist, who had defeated Liang Wenbo and Michael Holt in deciding frames last week, defied breaks of 138 and 103 from Dale to edge through in a tense decider.

Jack Lisowski booked his place in the Last 16 for the second successive year after a 6-2 victory over an out of sorts Graeme Dott.

A bizarre moment in the sixth frame saw Dott mistakenly concede when trailing by 24 points with 27 remaining, after miscalculating the remaining total.

Lisowski, the number 15 seed, went on to clinch victory with a superb break of 110.

Barry Hawkins swept aside Cao Yupeng by the same scoreline with breaks of 54, 103, 73 and 56, while Ben Woollaston progressed to the Last 16 in York for the first time after a 6-4 win over Liam Highfield with high breaks of 73, 73 and 74.

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UK Championship Snooker 2021 Day Six Results

Monday November 29

Last 32

Afternoon Session
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-3 Mark King
Barry Hawkins 6-2 Cao Yupeng
Dominic Dale 5-6 Andy Hicks
John Higgins 5-6 Zhao Xintong

Evening Session
Kyren Wilson 6-3 Wu Yize
Ben Woollaston 6-4 Liam Highfield
Stuart Bingham 5-6 Noppon Saengkham
Jack Lisowski 6-2 Graeme Dott

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