DOMINIC DALE was forced to survive several anxious moments before winning his first match at the Crucible for 14 years at the Dafabet World Championship on Thursday.
Dale resumed leading Mark Davis 7-2 and won two black ball frames to leave himself a frame from victory at 9-2. But Davis pulled back to 9-4 and then won frame 14 on a re-spotted black to threaten a full scale comeback.
With the tension rising, Dale looked to have done enough to win 10-5 when he led by 45 points with 43 remaining in the next but was unlucky to knock the yellow in while attempting a red. Eventually, Dale laid a good snooker and went on to win frame and match.
Dale, winner of this season’s Shootout event at Blackpool, had not won a match at the Crucible since 2000, when he reached the quarter-finals. Ironically Davis holds the record for the longest time between Crucible match wins – 15 years from 1995 to 2010.
“It doesn’t feel like that long,” Dale said. “Just being here is brilliant, you soak up the atmosphere, and I’ve had some rock hard draws. I’ve had Judd twice and Ronnie. I’d beaten Mark the last two times I’d played him so thought I had a good chance but it’s the Crucible and it’s about who deals with situations better on the day.
“There were nerves but I didn’t do much wrong from 9-2 to 9-5. But it taught me that I need to stay fit and healthy, otherwise I’m in danger of a stroke.”
Dale, renowned for his eccentricity, had raised the sartorial bar with his distinctive black and white shoes.
He said: “I bought them in the Royal Arcade in Cardiff. They were expensive, about £165, and don’t go down well with everybody. It’s not the sort of thing you wear in the nightclub.”
Davis, as world no.12, was the seeded player but left disappointed after failing to win only his fourth match in nine Crucible appearances.
He said: “I just chucked so many frames away it was just ridiculous. To 5-2 I didn’t do much wrong but in the last two frames last night I had loads of chances, and I’d gone a bit by them.
“I felt great today but that’s me all over, I don’t know how I’ll feel from one day to the next and that’s why I don’t win anything. It’s just lack of concentration.”
The first of the second round matches to start saw Mark Selby secure a 5-3 first session lead over Ali Carter, with 13 frames the target for a quarter-final place.
Carter, runner-up in 2008 and 2012, bookended an entertaining session with century breaks of 102 and 110. Selby, who reached the final in 2007, won the fourth frame on a re-spotted black to lead 3-1 and extended his advantage to 5-1 before Carter’s strong finish.
The two Englishmen resume at 10am on Friday, with the match played to a finish later that evening.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.