ALAN McMANUS is within four frames of winning his first match at the Crucible for nine years after establishing a 6-3 first session lead over good friend and fellow Scot John Higgins in the opening round of the Dafabet World Championship on Monday.

McManus was sporting a pair of distinctive tartan trousers and played smart snooker to forge 6-1 ahead before Higgins threw himself a lifeline by claiming the last two frames of the afternoon.

A semi-finalist in 1992 and 1993, McManus last won a match at the game’s premier venue in 2005, when he reached the quarter-finals. He lost a scrappy opening frame but the contest turned in his favour in frame two when Higgins missed a black going into the pack of reds. From this, McManus made a break of 87 and played with great confidence for the rest of the session, going for his shots as the predicted safety-first encounter between these two great all-round players failed to materialise.

With accurate potting from McManus, and Higgins struggling, the 43 year-old built a 5-1 lead. Higgins was in the early throws of a maximum attempt when he missed the black off its spot on 49 in the seventh and McManus made a composed 74 clearance for 6-1.

Again, Higgins had a chance for a 147 in the eighth and kept the attempt going first with a fluke on 65 and then a double, but he eventually lost position on 80 after a big bounce off a cushion, one of several in evidence during the session.

The four times world champion made a run of 57 in the last of the afternoon to trail 6-3, with a recovery needed when the match resumes on Tuesday morning.

On the other table, Ding Junhui and Michael Wasley will have to wait for the first available table tonight to complete their match after they were taken off with Ding lead 9-8 25 minutes before the evening session was due to start.

Ding led 6-3 overnight but clearly felt the unique Crucible pressure as Wasley recovered to level at 6-6, making a 135 break in the 11th frame.

Ding won the last before the interval and his 64 break brought him to 8-6 but exchanges became increasingly edgy and Wasley won the lengthy 15th on the blue before adding the next for 8-8.

With time for just one more frame, Ding secured it to leave himself one away from a place in the last 16. However, a wait of several hours was likely with Mark Selby leading Michael White only 5-4 on one table and Ricky Walden and Kyren Wilson playing nine frames on the other.

Wasley secured his Crucible debut by beating Robert Milkins 10-9 on a re-spotted black in the final qualifying round last week.


Photographs by Monique Limbos.