ALAN McMANUS won his first match at the Crucible for nine years with a dramatic 10-7 defeat of fellow Scot John Higgins at the Dafabet World Championship in Sheffield on Tuesday.
McManus resumed leading 6-3, pulled away to 9-4 but had to survive several anxious moments before crossing the winning line. He now faces Ken Doherty, the last player he beat at the Crucible in 2005.
He said: “I scraped over the line in the end. I said to my pal at the break that John would come on strong because that’s what he does, and I’d have to put it away fairly quickly. When he started coming back it was no surprise. If he starts relaxing and putting his arm through the white like he can do it’s like trying to tame a lion.
“Fortunately I just got another couple of chances, which I quite badly needed towards the end.
“A 9-4 lead on paper looks like you can win but things can happen. I was on my guard but I stayed calm. Through experience I was thinking, be patient, the chance will come and you just have to take it.
“Any time for me to practise with John is a thrill. I hold him in such high esteem as a guy and a player. He’s a legend of the sport. To play him here is special for me and to win is a bonus.”
McManus, at 43, faces Doherty, 44, for a quarter-final place in a meeting of the tournament’s two oldest remaining players.
And the former Masters champion believes older players have fewer distractions than their younger rivals.
McManus said: “I’ve thought for a few years that the older brigade are still holding quite a big chunk of the top 16 and top 32. There’s still plenty of room for guys over 40 to compete at the higher level of the game. I also think the older players have stolen a march on the younger players. Today’s world isn’t good for young people in snooker because they spend all their time on Facebook and it’s killing their snooker.
“I’ve seen it. They’re too busy reading and writing about snooker instead of getting their nut down and practising. I’m on twitter but not very often, I just have a bit of fun. Some of the young guys are taking their eye off the ball, spending too much time on the internet.”
McManus won a lengthy opening frame of the morning before an 88 break, which included an early three ball plant, extended his advantage to 8-3. From a fluked red in the next, Higgins made a 54 clearance but McManus won the safety battle in frame 13 and made 61 for 9-4.
Higgins, world champion in 1998, 2007, 2009 and 2011, came back strongly after the interval with breaks of 111, 67 and 94 to close to 9-7.
With tension rising, both players had chances in the last but it finally ended when Higgins over-cut the blue from the last red, leaving McManus to clear to the pink for victory.
“I had to play the blue really thin because I was cannoning into the brown and I just took my eye right off it, and Alan cleared up,” Higgins said.
“It’s disappointing the way it finished because I was feeling pretty good and if I’d made it 9-8 who knows?
“All credit to Alan, I thought he played really well. He did everything expected of him. He maybe doesn’t make the breaks he used to but his tactical play is really good and he froze me out. I knew I had some decent form inside me and I couldn’t bring it out in the first session.
“I have a lot of respect for Alan. I wouldn’t be the player I am without training with Alan when I was younger. He’s been in the wilderness the last couple of years but the new system helps him. He’s been at the venues and likes the bigger stage but was struggling at the qualifying venues. Every credit to him.”
Hong Kong’s Marco Fu established a 6-3 first session lead over Martin Gould in the morning’s other match.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.