CRUCIBLE debutant Michael Wasley produced one of the biggest shocks in Crucible history as he won a dramatic deciding frame to beat world number two and major contender Ding Junhui.
World number 73 Wasley, playing his first match at the famous Sheffield venue, benefited from a huge fluke on the final red at a crucial part of an epic 40-minute final frame to knock out one of the season’s best players.
The Gloucester man, 24, will next meet Mark Davis or Dominic Dale for a place in the quarter-finals of snooker’s biggest competition.
Winner of major five ranking events this season, Ding was tipped as a strong contender to take Ronnie O’Sullivan’s crown this year – but the surprise defeat means he will have to wait another year to go for his first world title.
Returning to the arena just at 11pm after the players were forced to come off in the afternoon session, Wasley at 9-8 down came out all guns blazing forcing a final frame decider with a superb attacking break of 103.
And what followed in the next 40 minutes will go down in Crucible folklore as the final frame produced many moments of tense drama with both players producing excellent snooker despite being under the most pressurising of circumstances.
Wasley, who made it the Crucible in dramatic fashion after winning a re-spotted black in his final qualifying match, had the first chance to clinch the frame but missed a long red ending his break of 35.
Ding, however, battled back and played a good snooker in behind the green with just three reds left – a snooker Wasley failed to get out of three times and on the fourth attempt he left Ding a pot to the middle.
The recent China Open winner potted it and looked a firm favourite for the match but unexpectedly lost position when he tried to remove the final red off the side cushion – leading to a vital safety battle between the pair.
Then remarkably Wasley, aiming to play the final red safe into the baulk area of the table, saw the ball crash into the middle pocket setting up a golden opportunity for him to take the match.
But, sensationally, the drama was not over yet as Wasley missed the final pink meaning Ding could still win with a snooker. Ding then produced safety of the highest quality and got the snooker he needed when he put the white in behind the black on two occasions.
But Wasley managed to get of out of trouble both times, despite numerous scares, showing immense determination and skill under pressure before closing out the frame.
Earlier Wasley fought back from 6-3 down to bring the match to a nervy ending, making a superb break of 135 during the process.
A delighted Wasley said: “I feel great, I managed to hold my nerve in the end.
“I was really nervous but I managed to put that to the back of my mind, I knew I had a match to win and it was in my hands. I’m just glad I held it together.
“Coming out playing one of the favourites of the tournament and someone who’s had such a great season and dominated, I was really pleased to be 9-9 and in with a chance to win.
“I wouldn’t be playing the sport if I didn’t think I could beat anybody and I felt like I adapted to the Crucible straight away – I could just get down to business and on to the match.
“It will take a good night’s sleep to get over it. The crowd were great, they really brought me along and it’s great playing in front of them performing – I just want to do it all again tomorrow.
“Throughout qualifying I thought I played really solid, I think I upped my level yesterday and not just today. Coming into the session 6-3 down I knew what I had to do to try and win it. I knew Ding was coming into this with a lot of pressure being one of the favourites, and I just had to try and capitalise on that which I did.
“It’s been amazing, you only dream of playing in places like this and it’s taken a lot of hard work and support from everybody. It’s all coming together now. I’ve got a big taste for it.”
Categories: World Championship