McManus potted a string of breaks before the mid-session interval – including a brilliant 107 – but Doherty chopped his lead down to 4-3, as the pair resume the best-of-25 last-16 encounter today.
Before beating four-time world champion John Higgins in the first round on Tuesday, McManus’ last triumph at the Crucible came against Doherty back in 2005. And the 43-year-old was the unlucky loser in a tense opening frame, drawing three fouls early on after former world champion Doherty had roped him with a snooker.
But the calm temperament that saw him topple old friend Higgins soon returned, compiling breaks of 69 and 107 – his first century at the Crucible since the pair’s match nine years ago – to take the lead. Another fine run of 71 saw him extend that advantage to 3-1 heading into the interval, but on resumption the pace slowed down – as the tension heightened in Sheffield.
First, McManus needed 17 visits to the table to clinch the fifth frame, before 44-year-old Doherty edged a 46-minute encounter to stop the rot.
And the Irishman ended the session on a high with a slew of low-scoring visits, including an effort of 26 – his highest break of the match so far.
Should McManus reach the quarter-finals he will play either Mark Selby or Ali Carter, with the former, ranked at No 3 in the world, 9-7 to the good heading into the final session.
Meanwhile reigning champion Ronnie O’Sullivan threw himself a lifeline by taking the last frame in his second session against surprise leader Joe Perry.
But O’Sullivan needs six frames in the final session today after world No 15 Perry’s 5-3 overnight lead became 9-7 to keep pressure on the Rocket.
O’Sullivan was out-of-sorts on Thursday but seemed to be rediscovering his touch early on, crafting a 93 before fouling on the black and losing the century.
Perry however, opened up with a run of 68 in the session’s second frame while O’Sullivan could only reply with 15.
Perry then racked up 48 and 46 after tying up O’Sullivan in a snooker, but Rocket then reduced the deficit to just one.
But O’Sullivan continued to be kept at arm’s length after Perry’s break of 73 in the penultimate frame – before a jittery encounter finished the session. Perry missed a black on its spot and fouled on two attempted safeties while O’Sullivan missed a slew of routine pots but finally snared what could be a vital frame.
And in a rematch of last year’s semi-final Ricky Walden recovered from two frames down to tie up the score 4-4 against Barry Hawkins.
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