World number 16 Yan Bingtao staved off a brave Elliot Slessor fightback to win 10-7 after a tense first round clash at the Betfred World Championship.
It had looked set to be a straightforward afternoon for China’s Yan, who held a hefty 7-1 advantage after yesterday’s first session. However, Crucible debutant Slessor came charging back this afternoon and exerted heavy pressure on the Asian number two.
Yan did appear at ease in the opener, firing in a break of 67 to extend his lead to 8-1. However, at that point Gateshead’s Slessor began to put up a fight and show what he can do on the sport’s biggest stage.
He claimed his first frame of the day, before Yan moved a frame from victory at 9-2. Slessor reduced his considerable arrears to 9-3 at the mid-session and kept his hopes alive with a sublime break of 123.
From that point world number 69 Slessor began work his way back towards contention. A gritty clearance of 40 helped him steal the first frame after the interval on the black. There was then remarkable drama on the colours in the 14th frame.
Yan inadvertently knocked the black in after potting what would have been a match ball green. Slessor eventually got his chance and converted, clearing to the pink to pull within four frames at 9-5. He then cranked up the heat further by taking the 15th frame to make it 9-6.
A break of 57 then saw Slessor make it 9-7 and spark genuine hopes of an unfathomable fightback. However, a relieved Yan hauled himself over the line by taking a tightly 36-minute frame to win 10-7.
The eventual victory sees 20-year-old Yan, who won his maiden ranking title at this season’s Riga Masters, progress beyond the opening round at the Crucible for the first time in his career. He’ll now face the test of going toe to toe with defending champion Judd Trump in the second round.
Meanwhile, tenth seed Shaun Murphy is in danger of a surprise defeat as he trails Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham 6-3.
In the last four years, Murphy has lost twice in the first round and twice in the second round, and if he is to avoid another early exit he’ll need to win seven of the last ten frames when they return on Tuesday morning.
Murphy, the 2005 World Champion, took the opening frame and looked set to add the second until he missed a red to a top corner on a break of 67. That proved a turning point as Saengkham cleared with 64 then took the next three frames with top runs of 67 and 59 to lead 4-1.
Breaks of 75 and 101 brought Murphy back to 4-3 but he then lost a 42-minute eighth frame as world number 42 Saengkham got the better of a safety exchange on the blue. And the last frame of the session went Saengkham’s way too, giving him a handy overnight advantage.
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