JOHN Higgins threw away a lead against Ryan Day on Tuesday as the Welshman’s brave comeback saw the Scot crash out of the Shanghai Masters.
And an angry four-time world champion is facing disciplinary action and a fine after storming off following a 5-4 loss and snubbing a mandatory press conference.
Higgins, 39, led 4-2 against Day but the world No22 draw level and then punished the Glaswegian after he missed a plant with the match at his mercy.
That saw a furious Higgins, desperately trying to recapture his touch, brush past waiting camera crews and Chinese and British media and head off to his hotel.
Since reaching the final of the Wuxi Classic 15 months ago Higgins’ form has suffered bar a World Open semi-final, and his ranking fallen to world No10.
He has also tried different cues in a bid to rediscover the poise that swept him to a quartet of Crucible triumphs.
But matches that previously Higgins would win in his sleep are slipping away and the contest against Day was a classic case.
World No22 Day, 34, said: “I was probably a bit lucky for John to miss the plant, I thought it was going to go but it clearly wasn’t quite right.
“I thought I had lost the match a few times and it was very close at the end. When he missed a I played a good first shot and then cleared up.
“That’s the game, I had to finish which is not easy in a deciding frame and I’m delighted it has gone my way and not John’s.
“I have been out of form myself, in Australia I was terrible and the last PTC I was struggling. I haven’t practised as much as I should, and have spent time in the summer with my young family.”
Former world champion Ken Doherty made up for the press conference that never was with a tour de force that had the local media eating out of his hand after surviving a scare against Chinese wildcard Huang Jiahao.
Doherty, at 44 the oldest potter in town, led 4-0 but in the end was relieved to get over the line 5-3 and set up a clash with world champion Mark Selby.
He said: “It ended up being a lot closer than I would have wished for, and the match changed over a couple of shots. He started to show his potential.
“It is a great tournament, I would just like to see the ticket prices reduced to a few RMB and fill the place up, give the ordinary man or woman a chance to come along.
“Playing Mark next, the world champion and world No1, it is going to be tough but all the pressure is on him – so he has no chance!
“As for me, age is only a number. I might have a body that was born in the 60s – the only one here – but in mind I am still a teenager.”
Two-time world champion Mark Williams looked in good fettle against Barry Hawkins – and edged through 5-4 after a characteristically tense decider.
Welshman Williams said: “Barry is near the top of the rankings these days so that is a great win for me.
“It could have gone either way in the decider, we both twitched a few balls – but I have lost of deciders in the last 18 months so it was nice to get one under my belt.”
Many players would like to see the back of wildcards altogether – and 17-year-old Zhao Xintong is rapidly acquiring the reputation of the one they would least like to face.
Despite suffering from a cold he took out Matt Selt 5-3 and will now play Marco Fu for a place in the last 16.
Photograph by Monique Limbos