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David Gilbert dethrones Luca Brecel on opening day of the World Snooker Championship

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Brecel and Gilbert look on (Photo by Richard Sellers/Alamy Stock)

David Gilbert reeled off four consecutive frames to dump out defending champion Luca Brecel in a decider on Day One of the World Snooker Championship.

Gilbert looked to be heading for The Crucible exit door at 9-6 down, but seized upon a host of unforced errors from Brecel to snatch a sensational victory.

Gilbert trailed 6-3 at the end of the first session, and Brecel edged closer to the winning line at 7-3, 8-5 and 9-6, but failed to convert match-winning chances and became the latest victim of the infamous ‘Crucible curse’.

Brecel becomes the 19th different first-time champion to fail to defend the world title in Sheffield and the sixth to fall at the first hurdle.

“To beat the World Champion, who I have a lot of respect for, I’m over the moon,” Gilbert told Eurosport.

“The state of my game four or five weeks ago, I pulled out of the World Open because I just couldn’t face it.

“I’ve got to thank Andy Lee [former professional], he’s stayed with me all week and we’ve practiced every day or been in the gym, it was a great decision we made.

“What was giving me hope is that Luca was making mistakes. I was 8-5 down but I was thinking I should be 8-5 up.

“At 8-5, I’ve gone in the dressing room and chucked a couple of apples and bananas. I said to Andy, “I’ve been too calm, I’ve got to get angry” and he told me to channel it.

“Now I’ve played alright out there and felt the adrenaline pumping, you’re going to start dreaming bigger but I won’t get ahead of myself.”

Brecel had produced breaks of 91, 134, 73 and 104 in establishing a 6-3 lead, with Gilbert’s first three frames coming courtesy of breaks of 70, 77 and 115.

The Belgian edged a black-ball shootout to extend his lead in the evening before Gilbert secured back-to-back frames to haul himself back into contention, with Brecel notably losing position on the final pink in frame 12.

A 58 break saw Brecel restore a three-frame cushion, and after Gilbert clinched frame 14, the reigning champion benefitted from a fluked red before going on to make 81 for a 9-6 lead.

A missed red proved costly for Brecel in the following frame as Gilbert punished with a 65 break, before adding a quick-fire 81 to trail 9-8.

Another guilt-edged chance passed Brecel by in frame 18 as he missed a crucial green, allowing Gilbert to make another half century to force a decider.

And it was a break of 65 which did the damage for the Tamworth ace, with an out of sorts Brecel conceding the match despite needing just one snooker.

“It was not easy being ill, but I tried,” admitted Brecel. “Dave played really well, he’s a fantastic player and he deserves it. He’s a good guy and I hope he wins it.

“I never really settled or felt good, I was really tired in the last session.

“I don’t think I could try any harder but it’s not an excuse, it is what it is, everyone gets ill sometimes.

“I need to work on my fitness to try and get back in shape. That’s the most important thing for me at the moment, snooker is second place currently.”

Meanwhile, 2019 champion Judd Trump established a commanding 6-3 lead over Hossein Vafaei at the halfway stage of their contest.

Trump, a five-time ranking event winner this season, fired in breaks of 63, 66, 72, 56 and 77, with Vafaei producing a terrific 138 in frame six.

Tom Ford also opened up a 6-3 lead over Ricky Walden going into Sunday’s climax, having compiled breaks of 83, 50, 79 and 53, though it was Walden’s 142 clearance which stole the show in the final frame of the session.

Ali Carter holds a slender 5-4 lead over Stephen Maguire at the halfway stage after he recovered from 2-0 down to hit the front.

Maguire began the contest with successive breaks of 93 and 114, and the Scot also added a clinical 134 in frame five, but it was Carter who took three of the last four frames.

Last year’s quarter-finalist Jak Jones leads International Champion Zhang Anda 5-2 following an attritional first session which was brought to an end two frames early.

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World Snooker Championship 2024 Day One Scores

*Indicates final session

Saturday April 20

Round One

Morning Session
Luca Brecel (6-3) David Gilbert
Zhang Anda (2-5) Jak Jones

Afternoon Session
Ali Carter (5-4) Stephen Maguire
Judd Trump (6-3) Hossein Vafaei

Evening Session
Luca Brecel 9-10 David Gilbert*
Tom Ford (6-3) Ricky Walden