WORLD No2 Mark Selby followed the top-ranked Neil Robertson out of the German Masters after losing to Kurt Maflin at the Tempodrom on Thursday night.

Selby and Maflin, both now 30, used to regularly lock horns as teenage juniors – but since those days their career paths have diverged significantly.

The London-born Maflin moved to Norway where he now has a young family, and is widely considered to be one of the most talented players not to have made a major breakthrough.

There is no doubt that the lack of facilities and practice partners in Oslo have hampered Maflin’s progress after returning to the tour following time off.

And last year’s PTC Finals semi-finalist has had to watch Selby soar up the rankings and claim some of the biggest titles in the game, including the Masters on three occasions.

Given that backdrop world No51 Maflin admitted the win was a sweet one. He said: “That was the first time I had played Mark on the pro tour, so I was very happy to win.

“It was a terrible game, a lot of balls were missed and Mark played awful, we all know how good he can be. But I don’t want to take too much away from myself, I took the last chance well.

“I have to keep doing what I am doing, and hopefully win one of these tournaments. The decision about whether to move back to the UK is a big one and complicated.

“We bought a new house and you have to live there two years before you can sell it in Norway, but it is something I have to have a good think about in the summer.”

On a horror night for the Scots John Higgins headed the casualty list, though he was part of a quartet of losers that included Stephen Maguire, Graeme Dott and Anthony McGill.

Higgins fell 4-0 down to new Shootout king Dominic Dale, but despite a rally the four-time world champion went out 5-3.

It is the latest chapter in a disappointing campaign for Higgins, who has struggled for form and results and is using a third cue of the campaign.

Reigning Welsh pen champion Maguire went down 5-3 to the mercurial Liang Wenbo, making it a great day for China as they celebrated New Year. He joined Ding Junhui, Xiao Guodong and Tian Pengfei in the last 16.

Dott lost 5-1 to Mark Davis, while McGill was whitewashed 5-0 by Joe Perry.

Shaun Murphy claimed a stunning comeback win over Matthew Stevens, the man he beat in the 2005 World Championship final.

Murphy trailed 4-1 and looked dead and buried but after being let off the hook by Stevens in frame seven grew in confidence to set up a clash to savour with Judd Trump.

World No4 Trump, slowly coming back to form, looked imperious in a 5-0 drubbing of Mark King and was in all probability denied a 147 in the final frame by a massive kick on a red.


Photographs by Monique Limbos