STEPHEN MAGUIRE played through the pain barrier to keep his BetVictor Welsh Open title defence alive on Monday – but was let off the hook by Sam Baird.
The 32-year-old Scot claimed a brave 4-3 comeback win over Devon’s Baird at the Newport Centre despite an acute back problem.
Maguire was in all sorts of trouble at 3-1 down with Baird on the brink of victory – but costly misses from the world No75 allowed the world No8 back in.
After reaching the last 32 five-time ranking title winner Maguire said: “My back is dodgy, it is getting down on the shot, once I am down there it is okay.
“I am on painkillers and ant-inflammatories but I don’t want anyone to touch it too much in case they make it worse. The doctor said the lower disc is swollen – but it won’t stop me playing.
“I should have lost that match, at 3-1 down he was in the balls perfect, around 50 up and just a couple of pots away.
“Lucky for me he missed them, I think he lost it rather than I won it. Before that I thought I was beat, but after getting back to 3-2 that I have been in his position and knew it would be hard for him.
“It was a bad match for me, and I didn’t play that much better at the end, it was just that he started missing.”
There was also an excellent win for Sheffield teenager Joel Walker, who chalked up a shock 4-3 victory over world No13 Mark Davis.
World No84 Walker, 19, has shown signs this season of starting to justify the hype generated when he was picked by Ronnie O’Sullivan to win a Rileys ‘Future Stars’ competition in 2010.
Being hailed by the Rocket as a “future world champion” at 16 might have been a daunting baptism for many but Walker claims it never fazed him – and only gave him more confidence.
And Walker also revealed that O’Sullivan still speaks to him a couple of times a year on the phone, and gives him tips and advice at tournaments on the tour.
The win over three-time world six-reds champion Davis, 41, represented one of the biggest victories of Walker’s professional career.
And there were also good wins on Monday morning for Thailand’s James Wattana, who beat Tom Ford 4-2, and Dominic Dale who eased past Dechawat Poomjaeng 4-1.