Stephen Hendry, the seven-times world champion, avoided the ignominy of defeat with a session to spare at the World Championship. But the sport's greatest player must climb a mountain to keep his hopes of a record eighth Crucible crown alive, having slipped within one frame of being knocked out at the last 16 stage by Mark Selby, the 2007 finalist.
Selby held a commanding 7-1 overnight lead and improved on that healthy advantage to lead 12-4 ahead of the pair's concluding session yesterday afternoon. Having made three century breaks in the opening session of the best-of-25 frame match, Selby continued to shine as he became the first player to make six century breaks in any match at the Crucible. And, ironically, Selby's sixth century saw the world No 3 equal Hendry's 16-year-old record of 53 centuries in a season. Breaks of 100, 127 and 117 left Hendry facing an early exit, while a further run of 87 served to compound the damage.
The Scot was on course to lose with a session to spare as he slipped 10-2 down at the interval, but he made breaks of 75 and 74 to win the first two frames following the resumption and will return today in what could to be his last-ever Crucible appearance. Win or lose the match, Hendry has threatened to retire at the end of the season.
Ronnie O'Sullivan saw his four-frame overnight lead of 6-2 reduced to a slender 9-7 advantage over Shaun Murphy, the 2005 Crucible champion, in their last 16 tie. O'Sullivan was slow out of the blocks as Murphy quickly reduced his arrears to just two frames. And he should have got back to 6-5, only to miss a routine red on a break of 44 to allow O'Sullivan to clean up with a run of 76. The "Rocket" knocked in breaks of 95 and 59 to keep his nose in front, but Murphy fought back with breaks of 55, 83 and 45 to leave all to play for when they resume to a conclusion today.
Graeme Dott, last season's runner-up, is confident his extra Crucible experience will help him to overcome Judd Trump, the sport's rising star, in their eagerly-anticipated quarter-final meeting tomorrow. A world champion in 2006, Dott says he will have to be on his guard against his "fearless" 21-year-old opponent. "There's no doubting he's a phenomenal talent. He goes for everything and pots everything," said Dott. "He's fearless, but he's got no battle scars. This is a really big match for him to get to, the one-table situation [in earlier rounds there are two tables in the arena], so he'll be under pressure."
Ding Junhui will have to come from behind to keep his Crucible title hopes alive. Ding, who lives and practises in Sheffield, resumes today 9-7 down to Stuart Bingham, a qualifier from Basildon.
John Higgins, the triple world champion, leads Rory McLeod 10-5 after the penultimate session of their tie. Higgins resumed 5-2 ahead, and kept his concentration despite some painstakingly slow play from his opponent, to leave himself three frames from victory.