I was back at the Crucible Theatre on Wednesday for my third session of this year’s World Snooker Championship to watch arguably the tie of the first round as reigning German Masters champion Martin Gould took on China’s greatest ever player Ding Junhui.
The opening session of this match had taken place this morning with Ding Junhui, who had surprisingly had to qualify for the tournament, lead 5-4 – Gould taking the last with one of the most outrageous century breaks the game has ever seen the move to just one behind.
Back on at 7pm, it was a nervy affair in the first couple of frames of the session with both players having chances to win both frames which meant, naturally, they were shared to leave the score at 6-5.
The ‘Pinner Potter’, as Gould is known, then stepped up to take the next two before the interval with some excellent snooker to lead for the very first time at 7-6 – having won four of the last five frames.
A potentially massive frame then followed after the break. Ding looked a certainty to level at 7-7 when he made a 65 before breaking down to allow Gould to return to the table requiring three snookers. However, a foul and a very costly free ball later and the Englishman found himself clearing the table to win it on the black and steal an 8-6 lead!
The manner of the previous frame may have knocked the confidence of many lesser players, but not Ding. The 11-time ranking event winner responded in the best possible manner with a break of 132 before coming from behind to win the 16th frame with an 86 to level and set up effectively a best-of-three.
The man from China had now stepped things up a level and made his second century in three frames to go ahead 9-8 and move just one away.
By now the curtain had been raised ahead of a crucial 18th frame as the opening session of Joe Perry v Kyren Wilson, which the latter led 5-4, had come to an end. You could feel the tension inside the famous arena as the two players battled out an intensely important frame that looked to be going one way, and then anther, with the whole venue looking on.
Sadly for the Gould fans, and no doubt most of the neutrals, there would be no decider to this enthralling contest as Ding capitalised on an error from his opponent to clear the colours and claim a 10-8 victory – setting up a meeting with either Judd Trunp or fellow countryman Liang Wenbo in the next round.