Snooker: Davis' clearance coup

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STEVE DAVIS won a place in the sport's history books with a record three total clearances in his 9-4 semi-final defeat of Martin Clark in the World Matchplay Championship at Doncaster last night, but he would gladly exchange that achievement for his first title success in 12 months on Saturday night.

In the final Davis, the 35-year- old world No 4, will face either James Wattana, of Thailand, or the Scot, Alan McManus, who play their semi-final today.

After the excitement of the afternoon session, when he produced his record clearances, the evening play was something of an anti-climax. The crowd at the Dome were still buzzing from Davis's memorable breaks of 141, 123 and 135 and though he settled down again quickly, the 1988 Matchplay champion only managed more modest runs of 52, 63 and 54.

'That first session was incredible,' said Davis, who smartly turned a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 lead with his tremendous break-building. 'The opening four frames were purgatory to play in, and probably to watch, but after the interval everything changed radically. My 141 break was the big turning point because it gave me back my confidence.'

From that point on Clark's game fell apart. Running repairs to his cue were needed when the tip fell off and, after a 15-minute delay, he potted only one more ball up to the evening break.

At one stage Davis amassed 316 points without any reply from Clark and, for a while, it seemed inevitable that he would overtake the record for successive points scored - 379 by Paul Davies.

Clark, the 24-year-old world No 12, was playing in his first major semi-final, yet he was philosophical in defeat: 'There was nothing I could do about Steve's performance with or without a tip on my cue,' he said. 'After taking so long to get past the quarter-final stage it was disappointing the way things turned out.'

COALITE WORLD MATCHPLAY Semi-final (Doncaster): S Davis (Eng) bt M Clark (Eng) 9-4.