Any wager on Jimmy White to win the Embassy World Championship may appear, on the verge of his 38th birthday, a triumph of hope over experience, but the six-times runner-up's completion of his 13-9 win over Stuart Bingham in Sheffield puts him through to his 15th quarter-final in 20 visits here.
Sitting on an 11-5 overnight lead, increased to 12-5, White had to contend with a flurry of late resistance from the world No 92. Even so, White was still too far ahead at 12-9 to feel under serious pressure and with a 99 break secured a quarter-final against either Matthew Stevens or Alan McManus. "I've got faith in my game at the moment," said White. "The only problem is I'm losing the cue ball now and then. That's why I'm not scoring that heavily."
The betting fraternity have been unswervingly loyal in their support for White even when his results have not justified it. Nor should they forget that it is eight years since he won a world-ranking event, seven since his last first prize of any kind and six since his last world-ranking final - an 18-17 defeat by Stephen Hendry here. Nevertheless, weight of money has brought his odds down from his opening 80-1 to 18-1 and events have conspired in his favour in his half.
Bingham's opening-day defeat of Hendry and David Gray's even more astonishing 10-9 elimination of a Ronnie O'Sullivan nearly at his best for all but the last couple of frames exploded the semi-final envisaged by the seedings. Both Bingham, 24, and Gray, 21, showed that, on their day, they can perform at the highest level, but at the Crucible they need to do so on several days.
Gray could scarcely believe that he had gone from "my best form of the season to my worst" in four days as he was trounced 13-1 by Dominic Dale with a session to spare.
Bingham went home between matches for a few days of normality. Not wanting to let down his partner, Robert Donkin, he even played in their scheduled quarter-final of a Pears Handicap in Southend on Wednesday night - first prize £75. Giving 35 start, they lost 3-1 to a pair of window cleaners, Andrew Hall and Dave Watts.
Back in Sheffield, Bingham launched into White with a total clearance of 132 but even when he led 4-2 did not look the inspired force who had accounted for Hendry. With his vast experience, White could read the signs and without playing all that well stitched together the eight-frame winning streak to 10-4 which was at the core of his victory.
The other quarter-final in the top half of the draw pits Dale, a Welshman who has been on the fringe of the top 16 for a couple of seasons, against either John Parrott, who has had his worst season of the 12 he has spent amongst that elite, or Joe Swail, Northern Ireland's top player.
Having made three centuries against Gray and hardly missed a ball, Dale fancies his chances. He did not maintain the inspiration which carried him to the Grand Prix title at Bournemouth in October 1997 as a rank outsider but started to show signs of it in reaching last month's Thailand Masters semis.
In the bottom half, Mark Williams, the new world No 1, who has not yet come under significant pressure, was by lunchtime yesterday expecting a quarter-final against Fergal O'Brien, the Dubliner who was last April's British Open champion.
Patient, consistent and determined, O'Brien improved his 5-3 overnight advantage over Stephen Lee to a commanding 11-5 going into last evening's final session.Reuse content