Snooker: Parrott fashions a return to fortune and favour: Former world champion shows signs of arresting his decline

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EVEN John Parrott's admirers had problems advancing a case for his winning the Embassy World Championship when he arrived here at The Crucible. He was not playing well. Indeed, since the new year, he has hardly been playing at all, given his early exits in most tournaments.

The form line was heading downwards, a direction confirmed by his defeat by the world No 62, Jason Ferguson, in the previous tournament. Last night, however, he reached the quarter-finals with a 13-9 victory over Willie Thorne. The Crucible, it seems, is having a recuperative effect on the 1991 champion. 'I'm very satisfied,' he said. 'Willie is a very dangerous opponent. If anyone wants to play me here I'm happy.'

Prior to Christmas, Parrott won two tournaments and was runner-up to Jimmy White in the UK Championships; since then, he has been finishing second to a lot of people. Confidence has been a problem but he will have been buoyed by his afternoon session yesterday when he rattled off five frames in succession.

The tone was set by the first frame. Thorne missed a relatively simple pink in the centre pocket when he was 37-13 ahead, and was left to rue the mistake more when Parrott fluked the yellow into the same pocket to steal the frame. The ball had hit two cushions and was going at a rate no snooker player in his right mind would attempt at such a narrow angle, but it flew in with barely a glance on the sides.

Thorne, watched by his friend Gary Lineker, threatened a comeback by taking three of the first four evening frames but Parrott headed off a potential surprise by taking the 21st and 22nd frames. He will now meet either James Wattana or Steve James.

Stephen Hendry, the defending champion, meanwhile, is just a frame short of joining Parrott in the last eight. He leads 12-4 after taking six of the eight frames available to him in yesterday's session. It was vintage Hendry, his opponent Darren Morgan fortunate to get a trip to the table.

Indeed, the match would have been over had it not been for Morgan's break of 64 in the 13th frame which took the contest over into this morning's session, delaying the inevitable.

Delay was the operative word in Terry Griffiths' match with Dennis Taylor. They were called off two frames early after taking more than four hours to advance to 3-3. The next instalment of this less than compulsive encounter is also this morning.

EMBASSY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (Sheffield) First round: D Mountjoy (Wal) bt A Robidoux (Can) 10-6. Second round: J Parrott (Eng) bt W Thorne (Eng) 13-9; G Wilkinson (Eng) and N Bond (Eng) level at 4-4 (after morning session); S Hendry (Sco) leads D Morgan (Wal) 12-4 (match finishes today); T Griffiths (Wal) and D Taylor (N Irl) level at 3-3 (match finishes today).

(Photograph omitted)