MARK SELBY fought back from the jaws of defeat to reach the second round of the Betfred World Championship after Norway’s Kurt Maflin gave him an almighty scare.
The defending world champion roared with delight after he dramatically came back from 9-8 down to beat the world number 38 star making an impressive debut appearance on snooker’s biggest stage – Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.
The tournament’s opening day produced a grandstand finale as Selby, looking to be the first man to successfully defend a first World Championship title at the Crucible, digged in when it mattered the most to squeeze into the next round against the recent China Open semi-finalist.
However Selby at one stage looked to be cruising into the Last 16 after going 8-4 ahead midway through the final session of the first round encounter which, as tradition, was played right through to the end on the tournament’s opening day.
But Maflin, who lives in Norway, turned the screw winning five frames on the bounce to move just one frame away from pulling off one of the World Championship’s most shocking results.
Leading 9-8 Maflin looked like clinching the match in frame 18 but a missed red allowed Selby back whose vital break of 47 helped him to force a final frame decider.
Maflin, who won a final frame decider to qualify for the World Championship for the first time, had the first real scoring opportunity after a great long blue went into the baulk pocket but moments later a straight forward red failed to find the pocket, allowing Selby a reprieve.
And Selby once again showed tremendous character as a vital break of 45 and then a long red clinched him a pulsating victory which saw him progress to the Last 16 stage.
Selby could be facing another Crucible debutant in the next round after Scotland’s Anthony McGill had the better of his first round encounter against Stephen Maguire.
McGill, making his first appearance at the World Championship, hit breaks of 92, 53 and 53 and earned himself an overnight 6-3 lead. The match concludes Sunday evening.
Fellow Scot and four-times winner John Higgins also enjoyed a god first day of the 2015 World Championship after taking a 6-3 lead in his first round tie with Robert Milkins.
Higgins, winner of this season’s Welsh Open title, held a 5-1 lead at one stage before Milkins won two of the final three frames to stay in contention ahead of Sunday’s evenings final session.
Elsewhere Marco Fu won the final two frames of his first session against Jimmy Robertson to earn a 5-4 lead and former world champion Graeme Dott leads by the same score against 2013 semi-finalist Ricky Walden.