Snooker: Determined Doherty maintains pressure

KEN DOHERTY, the 1997 champion and last year's runner-up, recovered from a 10-6 deficit going into his final session against the 1995 runner- up, Nigel Bond, before his gritty 13-11 win gave him a place in the quarter- finals of the Embassy World Championship.

Bond, seeking to redeem a season which has yielded neither a single world- ranking quarter-final nor a century break, led 50-0 in their first frame of the day and had two chances to clinch it. But, lacking the confidence born of regular success, lost it on the black.

Doherty added the second more comfortably and the third on a tie-break black after Bond had missed a routine frame-ball green for 11-8.

Clearly feeling the pressure, Bond just got home on the pink to lead 11-9 but Doherty finished strongly, making breaks of 79 and 66 to level and allowing Bond to total only 14 points in the remaining two frames.

"Something came back to me that was missing from the first two sessions," said Doherty. "If I hadn't had the experience of being champion two years ago I don't think I would have won.

"Lifting that trophy gives you phenomenal confidence. It makes you want to fight and be determined to try and achieve it again."

John Higgins, whose 8-0 whitewash of Mark King on Thursday evening had pointed to victory with a morning to spare, had to put in a brief appearance yesterday to make an 80 break and complete the 13-4 win which carried him into the quarter-finals.

John Parrott's 11th Crucible quarter-final opponent will be either the unpredictable Ronnie O'Sullivan or Joe Perry, the world No 74 from Wisbech, whose 55 clearance to beat Steve Davis 10-9 on the final black was the most dramatic moment of the opening week. O'Sullivan made a break of 100 but was otherwise struggling to find his higher gears as he took the 5-3 lead with which he resumes this afternoon.

Parrott knew what to expect from Chris Small, the tall, meticulous Scot whom he beat 13-12 on Friday night. "If you've got a ticket, change it for another match," he said. Slow as the Thorburnesque Small was, it was still engrossing. A win for Small would have put him in the top 16 for the first time and he looked capable of it at 10-9, 54-0. "The 20th frame was massive," said Parrott, reflecting on a 74 for 10-10. He went two up but an hour later Small completed a 131 clearance to level at 12-12. "He's a human limpet. He just won't let go," said Parrott after a cool 68 took the decider.

Matthew Stevens, the 21-year-old Welshman who reached last year's quarter- finals, did so again by beating the volatile Maltese Tony Drago 13-8. Notwithstanding a hat-trick of wins over Stephen Hendry, Drago has had such a poor season that he will not be in the elite top 16 in the end of campaign.

Of all the top players, there is more difference between his best and his worst but two dashing centuries, 108 and 137 gave him two of the morning's first three frames as he attacked his 6-2 overnight deficit.

At 5-7 and 6-8 he was only two behind and managed to limit his arrears at lunch to only 9-7 by responding to Stevens' 62 with a stirring 63 clearance to win on the black.

In the evening, though, he was too inconsistent to narrow this gap. Stevens, who has the flair, fluency and cue power of a potential champion, finished in style with a clearance of 124 and will play either Hendry or James Wattana, Asia's No 1, for a place in the semi-finals.

England's Nick Walker shared the opening eight frames of his second-round match with Wales's Mark Williams. Walker could have gone into today's second session leading if he had not missed a blue in frame three.

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