By Nigel Slater
MARK Davis held his nerve in a thrilling deciding frame shootout to knock four-times world champion John Higgins out of the UK Championship.
The Sussex star was cruising towards a shock win when back to back century breaks gave him a 5-2 lead. But a superb 147 maximum break from the Scot kick-started a typical Higgins fightback as he won the next two frames to force the match into a decider.
In a dramatic final frame, Davis had the first advantage with a lead of 53 points before a missed red gave his opponent the chance to counter attack. And Higgins looked to have completed the comeback but missed a relatively easy and crucial final pink which handed Davis another bite of the cherry.
A safety battle on the pink then followed but Higgins left a possible pot on for Davis who just needed one more pot for the match. And he made no mistake cutting the pink into the yellow pocket from a tight angle to clinch a great win from the jaws of defeat.
Davis is having one of his best seasons as a professional after reaching the semi-finals of the Wuxi Classic and Australian Open at the start of the campaign and this latest win shows how far he has improved as a player.
Higgins could not quite complete a fightback but brilliant comebacks was the theme of the afternoon session when both Luca Brecel and Mark Selby fought their way into the last eight stage after it looked like their hopes were tarnished.
Talented Brecel, at the young age of just 17, showed his true and exciting potential yet again coming back from three frames down against Mark King to beat him 6-4 – a result which followed his excellent first round win against Ricky Walden.
The Belgian’s excellent run in this tournament, which included winning all four qualification matches, looked set for curtains when King moved into a 3-0 lead.
But Brecel, who came back from behind three times to beat Walden on Monday, once again showed his true fighting spirit and managed to turn the match round winning the next five frames to go within touching distance of victory.
King, ranked number 32 in the world, refused to buckle against the talented teenager and stayed in with a shout winning frame nine but there was no stopping Brecel in the next frame when a break of 42 helped seal the match.
And Selby’s hopes of winning his first UK title looked to be dashed when his opponent Ryan Day sailed into a 3-0 lead.
But the Welshman, who knocked out Ding Junhui in round one, failed to capitalise as Selby fought back and showed the crowd why he had been top of the world rankings for most of 2012.
A break of 67 and two scrappy frames saw Selby level the scores at 3-3 before a stunning 99 break put him ahead for the first time in the match.
Full of confidence, Selby then hit a century break of 103 to close in on victory. But Day to his credit refused to give in and stopped the rot when he cleared the table after the Leicester star missed a golden chance of finishing the match off .
But victory for Selby was confirmed when a break of 51 helped him get over the winning line for a place in the last eight.
Wednesday’s remaining round two encounter saw Australian Neil Robertson ease into the quarter finals with a 6-2 win over Barry Hawkins. Robertson will meet play Selby on Thursday for a place in the semi-finals.
UK Championship 2012 – Quarter Final Draw:
Ali CARTER vs Stuart BINGHAM
Luca BRECEL vs Shaun MURPHY
Mark DAVIS vs Matthew STEVENS
Neil ROBERTSON vs Mark SELBY