Snooker: McCulloch's luck holds to leave Dott distraught

Graeme Dott, surprise runner-up in last year's World Championship, fell at the first hurdle in Sheffield here last night.

The 27-year-old Scot lost 10-9 to Ian McCulloch having fought back from 7-3 down to lead 9-8 before his opponent took the match to a deciding frame.

Dott built a 38-point lead, but then McCulloch, the world No 17 from Preston, knocked in a brilliant but unconventional 63 clearance to seal a last-16 tie against Mark Williams.

McCulloch's break began when he potted a superb long red and fluked another, landing perfectly on the pink. He also fluked the last yellow when trying to leave Dott snookered.

Dott, the 15th seed, believed fate had conspired against him. "It sounds terrible to say it but Ian's clearance was really good but really lucky. For that first red he only had a gap of a ball's width to get the white through. Then he doubled the last yellow. He stole six frames. I just wasn't destined to win it. To lose after playing a really good safety shot is hard to take."

Stephen Lee set up one of the most fascinating matches of the World Championship second round when he completed a 10-5 victory over Malta's Tony Drago.

The ninth seed, who has experienced an ordinary season, will have the chance to avenge Peter Ebdon's notorious 2001 Crucible defeat of him when the pair meet on Sunday.

At the same stage of the tournament four years ago their match went to a deciding frame and when Ebdon sunk the winning ball he infuriated Lee with his celebration, shouting and punching the air.

Lee gained a degree of revenge with a 9-8 victory over Ebdon at the UK Championship last December, but knows this is his opportunity finally to lay the ghosts of a contest he is not allowed to forget.

"I'm looking forward to it. I don't think Peter has beaten me since," said the 30-year-old from Wiltshire, who looked in good form as he knocked in three century breaks against Drago. "Peter apologised afterwards and there is no problem between us now.

"The problem was that I could understand a bit of a celebration at winning such a close match but not to that extent. I had all that summer to think about it and everyone kept mentioning it to me. It's not good losing 13-12 to anyone."

In the first of the second round matches, Stephen Hendry made a flying start against Anthony Hamilton. The Scot, seven times the world champion, led 6-2 after the first session to raise the possibility of winning this morning with a session to spare.

Ronnie O'Sullivan, Dott's conqueror in last year's final, was held 4-4 by his practice partner Ali Carter in the first session of their second-round encounter.

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