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Snooker: Doherty given a shock by Bond

NIGEL BOND provided a shock for the former title holder Ken Doherty by taking a 3-1 interval lead at the start of their second-round match in the Embassy World Championship in Sheffield yesterday.

Bond, a runner-up to Stephen Hendry in 1995, has struggled for form all season but has recently been receiving guidance from Derek Hill, who until earlier this year had been Ronnie O'Sullivan's unofficial coach.

The new partnership appears to be working as Bond made the ideal start to the best-of-25 frames encounter against his Irish stablemate. The Derbyshire professional, ranked 13th in the world, captured the opening three frames, including a break of 67 in the second frame.

Doherty, the No 4 seed, has been among the most consistent players this year, reaching the final of the Benson and Hedges Masters at Wembley. But he has yet to win a ranking title since defeating Stephen Hendry in the 1997 world final.

Stung into action yesterday, Doherty cut loose in the fourth frame to compile a run of 83 to open his account - but he still had a long way to go.

John Parrott and Chris Small resumed yesterday morning deadlocked at 4-4 and when they reached the midway interval of their second session the duo still could not be separated.

Once again Parrott set the pace by making breaks of 55 and 66 to lead 5-4 and 6-5. But Small, the world number 25, refused to be shaken off and hit back to level at 6-6.

Small holds the key to the top-16 futures of Steve Davis and Jimmy White, as the longer he remains in the championship the more precarious are the elite positions of the two Crucible legends. Parrott was doing his best to help them out, but was becoming increasingly frustrated by his failure to pull clear.

In the first 12 frames Parrott made breaks of 66, 71, 80, 65, 55 and 66, while Small's most telling contribution was just one half-century.

On Thursday evening John Higgins gave the clearest indication yet that he will not be handing over his title without a fight.

The 23-year-old world No 1 is attempting to become the only first-time champion in Crucible history to retain his title - and yesterday Higgins was striving to reach the quarter-finals while his main rivals have yet to start their second-round matches.

Higgins hammered Mark King, the world No 16, with a fusillade of breaks to build up a lead of 8-0. King, who once scored only 11 points against Higgins in a best-of-nine frames ranking tournament match, did very little wrong - he just had no idea how to stop Higgins piling up the breaks.

The Scotsman began the rout with a break of 75 and then followed up with back to back century breaks. Another half century helped him reach the mid-session interval 4-0 up, though King continued to pot balls for practice when already 87-16 behind.

When the match resumed King did not get any more table time. Higgins added runs of 48, 62, 84 and 77 while King's highest break of the session was only 29.

None of the other contenders have played as well as Higgins so far - certainly not Ronnie O'Sullivan, a semi-finalist twice in the last three years. His best break was only 68 in a 10-3 triumph over Leo Fernandez, the London based qualifier who promised much but delivered little.

"I really want things to happen, because that's when I play my best snooker," O'Sullivan, the world No 3, said. He will now take on Joe Perry, who overcame Steve Davis in the first round.