Jimmy White, who has endured more heartache at the Crucible than most players would be able to bear, made another disappointing exit from the Embassy World Championship when he was beaten 13-11 by Stephen Lee, the seventh seed, to be denied a place in the quarter-finals last night.
White, six-times a runner-up in the game's showpiece event, raised the expectations of his vast army of supporters by winning the first frame of the final session to lead 10-7. However Lee, who eliminated another golden great, Steve Davis, in the first round, compiled breaks of 54, 61 and 63 to level at 10-10.
His 38 clearance to the pink after White had broken down on 52 was enough to carry Lee 11-10 ahead. White cleared brown to black to draw level but Lee, not playing to his best but remaining focused under pressure, edged the next and clinched victory with a run of 72. "I'm disappointed because I didn't play well," White said. "When I was 10-7 up, I fancied winning. I thought that at any time I would start scoring heavily but it didn't happen."
White, who is 41 this week, led 5-3 after the first session and ended the morning with a 9-7 advantage but grew noticeably more edgy as the evening wore on. His 10-6 defeat of James Wattana in the opening round was only his second win all season and although he is likely to retain his place in the élite top 16, any remote hopes of a Crucible triumph have surely been extinguished.
"I didn't feel I was in the game until it went 10-10," Lee said. "I didn't see it as playing Jimmy but it's a shame for him because he wanted to win badly and the crowd were behind him."
An impressively solid performance from the No 12 seed, Graeme Dott gave him a 6-2 lead over Ken Doherty, the 1997 champion.
Earlier, passions had cooled overnight, allowing diplomacy to reign as Peter Ebdon completed a 13-5 victory over Tony Drago to carry his title defence into the quarter-finals. Drago had been incensed on Friday night, not so much by Ebdon's play as his lengthy toilet breaks between frames.
Yesterday, Drago accepted Ebdon's explanation that he had been suffering from an upset stomach. He also emphasised his frustration with scheduling that had given him less than 24 hours between his 10-8 defeat of Joe Swail and another mountainous challenge.
Ebdon professed himself "oblivious'' to any controversy. "I certainly didn't go out of my way to upset Tony. He was resident professional at King's Cross snooker club when I was an amateur. I'm grateful to him for even allowing me to practise with him when I was a kid.''
John Higgins, the 1998 champion, completed a 13-7 win over Sean Storey from Grimsby, and said that a table-fitter had told him that a new pocket template has made the pockets one sixteenth of an inch tighter. The tournament director, Michael Ganley, categorically denied any change.
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