MICHAEL Wasley pulled off one of the biggest shocks in Crucible history around midnight on Monday by knocking out man-of-the-season Ding Junhui.
The 24-year-old debutant from Gloucester, ranked No73 in the world, edged a first-round classic 10-9 at the Dafabet World Championship in Sheffield.
Wasley outrageously fluked the final red to set himself up for victory at the death, but even then the drama continued. He was forced to escape from three snookers laid by Ding on the pink before potting it to seal victory.
And that left the title hopes of world No2 Ding, 27, who has won a record-equalling five ranking titles this campaign, in tatters.
Ding’s record at the biggest tournament lets him down – and this was another huge blow for China’s hero against the man who solves Rubik’s cubes and juggles to relax.
And Wasley is establishing a reputation as a man of granite and clutch specialist much like Mark Selby, having qualified for the venue with a re-spotted black win over Rob Milkins.
Neither player wanted to come off when the match was pulled at around 6.30pm ahead of the evening session with Ding leading 9-8. And Wasley made a break of 103 on the resumption to force the tense decider.
The upset ranks alongside Tony Knowles beating Steve Davis 10-1 in 1982 – and David Gray knocking out Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-9 in 2000.
Wasley, the man who relaxes by juggling and solving Rubik’s cubes, said: “I was really nervous but I knew I had a match to win and I am really pleased with how I held myself together.
“To be involved in one of those dramatic late-night finishes at the Crucible was surreal. Ding has won so many tournaments this season, dominated really, I was really pleased to be 9-9.
“I thought I had a chance of beating him, I wouldn’t be playing if I didn’t think I could beat other players. It will take a good night’s sleep to get my head around it.
“I knew Ding was under big pressure as one of the favourites and I tried to capitalise on it. It has been an incredible experience, you dream of playing in places like this.
“I didn’t really look at him too much after the fluked red, just a wave of the hand, as I was focusing so hard on the next few pots but sometimes you don’t have to do a big gesture for players to know you are apologising.”
Ding said: “I was surprised at how well he played, he played brilliantly. It felt like when I played Judd Trump here in the semi-final in 2011, great potting and break-building.
“I had the chances to win but I didn’t take them. I have won a lot of titles this season, but have also lost in the first round often after winning. Maybe I won too much.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos