RICKY Walden held off a fightback from Crucible debutant Kyren Wilson to secure his place in the last 16 of the World Championship.
Walden, who made the semi-finals last year, battled through a tough period of form to creep over the winning line at a time when Wilson threatened a comeback from 8-4 down.
Leading 6-3 from Monday’s opening session, Walden extended his lead from the off with a break of 64 to make it 7-3.
The match was starting to get away from Wilson so it was with much relief for him when he won the next frame with a run of 61.
Walden regained a four-frame cushion before Wilson replied with a 59 break to keep his slim hopes alive at 8-5 behind.
But after the mid-session interval Wilson appeared to look the more confident as errors creeped into Walden’s game. 8-5 then became 8-7 as Wilson battled back and piled the pressure on the seeded player.
But a missed red from Wilson at a crucial part of frame 16 was to cost the debutant dear as Walden took advantage and edged closer to the win.
He then wrapped up the match after dominating the next frame which lasted more than 73 minutes – just two minutes short of the longest frame in Crucible history.
After the game Walden, who will play either Barry Hawkins or David Gilbert in the next round, admitted he was struggling for form at the death.
“I was enjoying myself – it was a very tricky frame to come through and I’m glad I did in the end,” he said. “I was just waiting for my chance. I just stayed positive and eventually got over the line. We both lost our technique out there a little bit. It was a crazy frame.
“Kyren’s a very good player. He’s going to be around for many years. I’m just pleased to be in the next round. I knew it was going to be a tough game. You’re always looking to play your way into a tournament. I’ll be focusing on the next game now and hopefully I can play a little bit better.”
Elsewhere tonight, Mark Allen opened his World Championship account by earning a 5-4 overnight lead against qualifier Michael Holt.
Holt, who last year suffered a humiliating 10-1 defeat to Walden in the first round, had a much better experience this time round and led 4-3 at one stage before Allen came back to take a slight advantage at the halfway stage.