DEFENDING CHAMPION Mark Selby survived an epic opening round encounter with Mark Davis to book his place in the quarter-finals of the Databet Masters at Alexandra Palace in London on Sunday.
Selby, looking for his fourth Masters title in seven appearances, was coasting to victory when he established a 4-0 lead but was pegged back before edging a tense, 54 minute decider.
It was the ninth deciding frame finish Selby had survived in the 20 matches he has played at the Masters, having never lost one.
“Before the interval I thought I played quite well,” Selby said. “I seemed to control the match to lead 4-0 and I was saying to my friends at the interval that at 4-0 all you have to do is mind your work because you should get chances.
“I went out and lost a bit of focus and missed a few balls I shouldn’t have. Mark started playing a lot better and getting himself back into the match.
“Once you lose your concentration it’s harder and harder to get it back.”
Selby made a highest break of 80 in opening his 4-0 interval advantage but missed a relatively routine red early in the fifth and Davis started to find his feet.
Davis, making his third appearance in the Masters, made an 80 break for 4-1 and prevailed in a dramatic sixth frame, potting the final black having originally failed to gain position from the pink.
Selby still looked the likely winner when Davis missed a red to the top right corner in frame seven to let the Leicester man in for 5-2. However, Davis made the tournament’s first century -a 136 total clearance - and, growing in confidence, stole the ninth with a 49 clearance to black.
Two scoring visits, of 62 and 61, made it 5-5 before a nervy decider, in which Selby’s superior safety game came to the fore.
At his fifth attempt to pot match ball red, it went in and he did enough to reach the last eight.
Selby said: “I’ve done it to plenty of players before, come back from a losing situation. You just have to try and wipe everything out of your mind and give that one last frame your all.
“In general I’ve had a lot of deciding frames and have probably come through more than I’ve lost.
“When you’ve come through them before it gives you the confidence when you go into a deciding frame.”
Davis said: “I’m proud of myself for the way I came back. Even at 4-0 down I thought I could do a bit a damage in the match because I hadn’t done much wrong.
“I never felt I had a really good chance in the decider. It wasn’t the sort of frame I wanted.”
Selby plays the winner of tonight’s first round match between Stuart Bingham and John Higgins.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.