Davis stuns Higgins by storming into 6-2 lead

VETERAN Steve Davis opened up a four-frame lead in a thrilling Crucible clash with defending world champion John Higgins last night.

The last time Davis won the World Championship, in 1989, the Berlin Wall was still standing and Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister.

But the 'Nugget' rolled back the years to the golden age of snooker in the arena where he was once the supreme player, winning six titles. Davis was Higgins' childhood snooker idol and the Scot expressed a desire to take on the 52-year-old in the second round this year after the draw made that a possibility.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But the Scot may have been having second thoughts about that as he slipped 6-2 behind, putting him in a position of early peril. The winner needs 13 frames to reach the quarter-finals, so Davis is not halfway there yet, but he was a convincing leader rather than a fortunate one. A break of 53 set him up to win the first frame, and 48 followed in the third, but the best was still to come. Davis has kept himself in trim physical shape, reacquainted himself with the practice table, altered his grip to one which brought Alex Higgins all his success, and believes he can compete with the best again.

He rattled in a superb 72 to win frame five and edge 3-2 ahead, then two scoring visits stretched the difference to two frames. Davis had not made a century in competition this season but that all changed in frame seven against Higgins. With the audience gripped, Davis set about constructing a break which finally was halted on 102 as the yellow ball refused to drop. The crowd erupted, the shock was on.

Davis had been a 50-1 shot with tournament sponsors Betfred.com to win all four frames after the mid-session interval, but when Higgins broke down on a break early in the final frame of the night that was a possibility. Davis rattled in 53, and Higgins needed a snooker. He put himself back in contention but then went in-off, allowing Davis to fire in a long-range yellow – effectively the frame winner. The sweep of the four frames had become a reality, and three-time champion Higgins will need a strong session this afternoon to get back in touch.

Tomorrow morning's concluding nine frames could offer incredible drama.

Scotland's world No 2 Stephen Maguire converted his 6-3 lead into a 10-4 first-round victory over Stephen Lee top set up a last-16 match against compatriot Graeme Dott.

Another Davis – Hastings' Mark Davis – was also in second-round action but did not have such a good day, falling 5-3 behind against Northern Ireland's Mark Allen who became the first player to ever make a 146 break at the Crucible.

Shaun Murphy lost five frames in a row from 9-2 up before clinching a 10-7 first-round win against Gerard Greene. The 2005 champion faces Ding Junhui next.