STEPHEN MAGUIRE survived a Joe Perry fightback to move into the quarter-finals of the Dafabet Masters with a 6-4 victory at Alexandra Palace on Monday night.
And the 32-year-old Scot’s win made up for recent disappointments at the £600,000 event, one that has seen Maguire, twice a semi-finalist, fall at the first hurdle in each of the three previous years.
Perry arrived having shown good form in winning Group Two of the Championship League at Crondon Park the week before, but reigning Welsh Open champion Maguire put his foot on the accelerator to surge 5-1 in front and then coped with a late rally from his opponent.
Maguire said: “From 5-1 I had missed a couple of chances but hadn’t done too much wrong. I made some changes to my technique ahead of this event, and in the last frame I was just telling myself to trust it, and do as I had been at the start of the match.
“I played a decent last frame and it is pleasing, that is actually the first match I have won here since it moved from Wembley Arena, and I love it here. Next I play either Neil Robertson or Mark Allen, that is the tie of the round for me and I will enjoy watching it.”
Maguire’s major titles have tended to come in clusters, but he has not threatened as much and as consistently as he would have liked since beating Stuart Bingham in Newport almost 12 months ago to end a lengthy spell without lifting a trophy.
But on form and in the groove the Glaswegian remains as dangerous as opponent as any, and despite Perry’s good showings this season and last week in Essex he started as the underdog with Maguire holding a 9-2 winning record in the head to head.
There was also the extra incentive of matching the achievement of compatriot and close friend John Higgins in getting through to the quarter-finals – and Maguire began in characteristically aggressive fashion, taking on almost every ball and potting the vast majority.
The world No5 raced out of the traps with a break of 112, and swiftly added another run of 80 to grab control of the encounter – and in high-class exchanges the next two frames before the mid-session interval were shared, Perry making a 78 and Maguire adding a 56 to make it 3-1.
Perry has been enjoying one of his best ever seasons having won for the first time a tournament carrying ranking points in Yixing, China. But a miss on a red into the centre pocket effectively cost him frame five as the deficit was extended to three frames at 4-1.
And Maguire kept the pressure up in the next, darting in with a 48 and then tying up the remaining reds and colours before coolly picking off what he needed to move four frames up with five to play.
Perry clawed one frame back, and survived a huge kick on the final red in the next to clear up and leave the score at 5-3 before a break of 106 set alarm bells ringing for Maguire before he closed out matters in frame 10.
Perry said: “I enjoyed the match, it was just disappointing the way I played at the end, where I made several really bad mistakes and played probably my worst frame of the season. I had battled really hard to get back into it.
“Stephen played exceptionally well and deserved to be 5-1 up, he started like a train, but I felt much better than I have before at the Masters. In the past I don’t think I truly believed in myself but I have had help from some people and that is different now.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos