Kurt Maflin denies David Gilbert as John Higgins and Neil Robertson avoid early exits at the World Championship
Kurt Maflin recorded his first win at the World Snooker Championship by knocking out David Gilbert in a dramatic encounter on Sunday, as John Higgins and Neil Robertson also sealed their spot in Round Two.
Maflin was beaten by Mark Selby in a deciding frame in his only previous visit to The Crucible, but created a slice of personal history by coming through an epic battle with the number 12 seed.
A high quality contest featured five centuries – a First Round record at the World Championship – but it was the Norwegian who prevailed to ensure Gilbert became the first seed to bow out.
Maflin opened up a 5-4 lead in the first session with high breaks of 124 and 101 to Gilbert’s 92 and 131, before the two players exchanged breaks of 102 after the restart.
A break of 93 saw 2019 semi-finalist Gilbert level up before taking frame 13 to gain the upper-hand at 7-6.
Maflin responded with a 97 break, and after Gilbert moved ahead again, Maflin carved out a golden opportunity for a maximum in frame 16.
He potted 13 reds and 13 blacks before running the cue ball around the angles and losing position, seeing the break end at 105.
Maflin then followed in with a break of 63 to go within one of victory, which he duly sealed following a marathon 18th frame.
“I’m delighted,” Maflin told Eurosport. “I’ve really been putting the work in over the last five or six weeks and I feel good.
“I knew I was playing well and it was heavy scoring backwards and forwards, I’m just gutted I didn’t get the max!
“I really want to make a 147 at The Crucible, as most players do.
“I actually felt calmer towards the last few frames than what I did when I was 5-4 up.”
Maflin will now face John Higgins in the Last 16 after the four-time World Champion overcame two-time finalist Matthew Stevens 10-5.
Higgins led 6-3 overnight but it was Stevens who started the second session strongly with a clinical break of 138 to reduce the deficit.
Higgins then regained control with back-to-back frames, and though the Welshman took frame 13, Higgins stole the next on the black after needing a snooker to lead 9-5.
The Scot then swiftly saw out the match to kick-start his quest for a fourth consecutive Crucible final appearance.
Neil Robertson began his pursuit for a second world title a decade on from his first triumph as he overcame Liang Wenbo 10-5.
Robertson made a sensational start by producing a 140 clearance to equal Tom Ford’s effort as the highest break of the tournament so far.
The Australian then added breaks of 122, 87 and 64 on his way to a 5-3 lead before Liang closed the gap with a 113 break to end the first session just one behind.
However, it was one-way traffic in the evening as Robertson reeled off five frames in a row after Liang had begun with a 82 break to make it five apiece.
Robertson replied with breaks of 97 and 89 to lead 7-5 before defying a 55 break from the Chinese ace to clinch frame 13.
The world number two then secured the following two frames to coast into the Last 16 – where he will face either Barry Hawkins or Alexander Ursenbacher.
Meanwhile, Ronnie O’Sullivan put one foot into the Second Round by storming into an 8-1 overnight lead against Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.
A blistering first session lasted less than two hours as the two fastest players on the circuit collided, but it was O’Sullivan who dominated proceedings.
The Rocket raced to the opening six frames with breaks of 101, 85, 115, 74, 88 and 76, before Un-Nooh got off the mark with a break of 69.
O’Sullivan then moved further clear before adding a break of 65 to leave him needing just two more frames for victory when they resume on Monday morning.
Yan Bingtao is also within touching distance of Round Two after opening up a commanding 7-1 advantage over debutant Elliot Slessor.
Yan, the number 16 seed, fired in breaks of 66, 119 and 86, with Slessor’s sole contribution to the scoreline coming courtesy of a break of 60 in frame five.
WATCH THE WORLD SNOOKER CHAMPIONSHIP STREAMED LIVE HERE (18+)
World Snooker Championship 2020 Results
Sunday August 2
Yan Bingtao 7-1 Elliot Slessor (Resumes Monday)
Ronnie O’Sullivan 8-1 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (Resumes Monday)
John Higgins 10-5 Matthew Stevens
David Gilbert 8-10 Kurt Maflin
Neil Robertson 10-5 Liang Wenbo