THIS year’s UK Championship may have unearthed a new snooker star in the making after teenager James Cahill held his nerve to knock out Ding Junhui in the match of the tournament.
18-year-old Cahill, the nephew of seven times world champion Stephen Hendry, showed that there is a new potting great in the family after pulling off the biggest win of his life to reach the last 16 of snooker’s second biggest ranking event in the calendar.
This year’s UK Championship format has been criticised by some players, most notably Ronnie O’Sullivan, but a thrilling late night of drama was just the tonic it needed as the snooker world saw a talented youngster grind out a memorable 6-5 win against one of the world’s best.
Leading 5-1, Cahill was forced to wait a long while before clinching his stunning win as Ding hit back to force a dramatic decider.
But late drama came into the equation in the ninth frame when Ding dramatically fought back from 68-0 down to win the frame by a single point after Cahill missed a red to the green pocket before giving away a free ball after being snookered.
Having won four frames in a row the momentum was with Ding to take the match and that looked to be the case when he found himself in the balls early on.
Bt a surprising miss on a red with the break on 32 allowed Cahill a chance to get back in the frame. His response was brilliant as a break of 56 showed brilliant mental strength especially given what had gone on in the previous frame.
And a superb long red and then a cut on the yellow put the result beyond doubt and was met with roars from Cahill’s watching family and friends.
Elsewhere, Ronnie O’Sullivan and defending champion Neil Robertson cruised through to the last 16 stage after winning 6-2 against Ben Woollaston and Peter Ebdon respectively.
Woollaston led 2-1 after the first three frames but it was one way traffic thereafter as O’Sullivan, looking to win this event for a fifth time, took the next five frames with top breaks of 56, 65, 104 and 84.
Robertson, who admitted to being very lucky after his second round final frame win against Kyren Wilson, enjoyed a much better outing as he one century and five breaks of 50 plus to defeat Ebdon.
Rod Lawler caused another real surprise as he came back from 3-0 down to beat this season’s Shanghai Masters and International Championship finalist Mark Allen.
Breaks of 138 and 115 gave Allen the perfect start as a routine win looked on the cards. But Lawler fought back to win six of the next seven frames to cause a big upset.
There was heartbreak for young potting sensation Joel Walker who was denied a place in the fourth round after losing a final frame decider against last year’s semi-finalist Stuart Bingham.
Walker, who beat Alan McManus and Tom Ford to reach the last 32, sailed into a surprising 3-0 lead against the recent Shanghai Masters winning. But Bingham fought back to win five of the next six frames.
A superb break of 97 gave Walker fresh hope as he forced a decider but when it mattered the most Bingham fired in a match-winning break of 95 to reach the fourth round.
Mark Davis came back from 5-3 down to clinch a place in the last 16 as he won a final frame decider against Joe Perry.
Stephen Maguire produced his best form of the tournament so far as breaks of 132, 90, 87 and 80 helped him to a 6-2 win over Mark Williams.
And fellow Scot Graeme Dott also enjoyed a good day on the baize after he blasted his way to a fourth round meeting with Neil Robertson hitting three centuries in the process.