A Chinese 21-year-old took centre stage at The Crucible for a second successive night yesterday when a low-profile qualifier, Liang Wenbo, making a stunning tournament debut, produced the biggest shock of this year's World Championship so far by ousting Ken Doherty, the world No 4, 10-5.
On Tuesday, it was Liang's compatriot, Ding Junhui, who had the red flags flying after a 10-9 win over Marcu Fu. Liang then stormed to a 7-2 lead over Doherty yesterday morning, before a third Chinese challenger, 17-year-old Liu Chuang, restricted Ronnie O'Sullivan to a slender 5-4 first-round lead in their best-of-19 match, which concludes this afternoon.
When Liang resumed against Doherty last night – after a comical linguistic mix-up when he entered the arena early, believing the introduction of the referees included him – they split the opening two frames.
Liang moved to 9-3 when Doherty went in-off trying to pot a re-spotted black, but with the odds utterly against him, the Irishman just went for it and took the next two frames. Liang, a risk taker whose top break was 95, crept over the line after an ebb and flow 15th frame.
Liang, from Heilongjiang Province in north-east China, is one of six Chinese players now on the main tour, all based at the World Snooker Academy in Sheffield. He meets Northern Ireland's Joe Swail in the second round.
O'Sullivan began his quest for a third world title in bewitching fashion, caressing nonchalant, brilliant breaks of 76 and 87 on the way to a 3-0 lead. But Liu responded with a 92 to stymie The Rocket, clawed back to 3-3 and then 4-4, and was unlucky to lose the next.
Two former champions, Graeme Dott and Shaun Murphy, had contrasting days, Dott losing 10-7 to Joe Perry, and Murphy completing a smooth 10-3 win over Dave Harold. Dott's defeat was his 16th lost match in a row but he was upbeat simply at having been able to play. He almost withdrew after being diagnosed with depression.