NEIL Robertson was taken to the wire by Kyren Wilson but found his best when it mattered most to set up a last-32 clash against Peter Ebdon at the Coral UK Championship.
Defending champion Robertson, who paid tribute to cricketer Phillip Hughes by taking a bat into the Barbican Centre arena in York, trailed 5-4 to the 22-year-old Wilson.
And when the Northamptonshire player fluked the final red in frame 10 and was starting to clear up the colours Robertson’s reign looked over.
But a poor positional shot on the green meant a tough brown for Wilson, and after he missed to allow Robertson to level the Australian found a break of 86 in the decider to edge through 6-5.
“A lot of Australian sportsmen paid tribute to Phil Hughes over the weekend, and this was my chance to do it,” said Robertson.
“It was to show my respects for him and for his family – and I think it made me a little more motivated out there to stick in and try and get the win.
“Not giving in is an Australian trait, he had it and hopefully I showed it today. Every time I walked back to my chair I could see it, and it did help motivate me especially digging in at the end.
“I placed the bat deliberately where I did, next to my chair, so it was always in my eye walking back to my chair or between frames.
“But to be honest I would love to win the whole tournament and then dedicate that to his memory and his family – that would be fitting.
“The first couple of rounds it can be hard to motivate yourself for matches and you sometimes need a bit of luck as a top player if you are not on your game.
“There were unnecessary errors, but I did produce my best of the match when I needed it most, behind at 5-4 down after he fluked the last red and then in the last frame.
“That is my positive, that I stepped up, but I will have to play a lot better than that in the next round against Peter Ebdon.”
Elsewhere there was a much-needed win for an out-of-sorts Stephen Maguire, who came out fighting and turned a 3-0 deficit against Yu Delu into a 6-4 victory.
Ken Doherty produced a fine and trademark comeback to beat Welsh prospect Michael White on Sunday.
Former world champion Doherty, now 45, trailed one of the snooker’s big hopes 3-0 but hit back to claim a 6-4 victory.
Doherty is a three-time UK finalist, but has never got to lift the trophy – but in his 25th season as a professional that dream is still alive this year.
The world No40 from Dublin will now take on recent International Championship winner Ricky Walden for a place in the last 16.
And he followed up the three centuries in his first-round win with further breaks of 73, 109 and 52 at the Barbican Centre on Sunday night.
Doherty said: “It wasn’t looking so hot at 3-0 down – but L like a comeback and giving value for money! But I won an important fourth frame, and that settled me down a bit.
“And then I knew if I got going I could put pressure on him, and could have gone 5-3 up – but he is A tough player, very clever and aggressive. I just had to keep myself together.
“And I drew on how well I played in the first match here. It was nice to play well in one of the major events, and basically not bottle it.
“I have had a lot of good matches here at the Barbican over the years, and this is one of the ones you really want to do well in.
“Every match you have to treat it like a final and Ricky Walden is a man in form in the next match, but I have nothing to lose and if I play like I have been he won’t like playing me either.”
Photograph by Monique Limbos