/ Snooker

Maguire punishes Perry in Steel City

Updated: Friday, 27 Apr 2012 19:56

Stephen Maguire has surged clear of Joe Perry at the Crucible
Stephen Maguire has surged clear of Joe Perry at the Crucible

Stephen Maguire stood poised tonight to clinch an all-Scottish showdown in the Betfred.com World Championship quarter-finals.

The 31-year-old Glaswegian won six of eight frames in his second session against Cambridgeshire's Joe Perry to pull 11-5 clear, and he returns tomorrow morning needing just another two to reach the last eight.

Assuming Maguire completes the finishing touches of a thus far impressive job, it will be Stephen Hendry or defending Crucible champion John Higgins next for him.

Maguire did not have to peak this afternoon to stretch his lead over Perry, who despite defeating Graeme Dott 10-1 in the first round did not play particularly well on that occasion, and in his second-round match there have been only flickers of form from the 37-year-old former semi-finalist.

Today Perry made the only century of the session, but that run of 103 came with him 10-4 behind and when Maguire completed a solid afternoon's effort with a slick 75 clearance the contest looked as good as over.

On a big day for Scotland in Sheffield, seven-time world champion Hendry had inched ahead of four-time winner Higgins in their long-awaited first Crucible meeting, as they headed into the evening session.

While Hendry made his debut as long ago as 1986, aged 17, Higgins' first appearance came in 1995.

The pair have been ever present since, yet bafflingly have always avoided each other.

It was Higgins' stated desire that he should play Hendry this year, even before the draw created the prospect of a second-round encounter.

Hendry, down at 23rd in the world rankings, had to qualify this year but his maximum break against Stuart Bingham in the first round confirmed the 43-year-old as a man in form.

He ploughed in breaks of 81, 69, 93, 123 and 67 to seize a 5-3 lead in the early stages of their best-of-25-frames tussle, which is scheduled to finish tomorrow afternoon.

Higgins, the 36-year-old four-time world champion, took the opening two frames of the match but neither player looked to have settled down.

Hendry won the last of his record seven world titles in 1999, fittingly completing his dominance of the decade, but he has not won one of snooker's big three tournaments - the World, UK and Masters - in this century.

The likes of Higgins, Ronnie O'Sullivan and a strong supporting cast have overtaken him to leave Hendry, approaching his mid-40s, marooned among career also-rans and emerging youngsters outside the top 16.

He would not be at the Crucible, though, if he had lost interest or belief, and Higgins knew Auchterarder's most celebrated resident would be geared up to impress in their contest.

Hendry's fightback was terrific. He was denied a century in frame three when, 19 short of three figures, he rattled the green in the jaws.

He then fired in a swift run of 69 that ended when he clipped one red into another, presenting Wishaw cueman Higgins with an opening he could not take.

Higgins returned from the mid-session interval to rifle in the first century of the match, a rapid 124 to restore his lead, but it was the last frame he won of the session as Hendry reeled off three in a row.

Tamworth's David Gilbert, who had to win four qualifying matches to reach the Crucible, looked to be nearing the end of his adventure as he slipped further behind against Australia's 2010 world champion Neil Robertson.

World number 68 Gilbert was 5-3 behind overnight and breaks of 76, 77, 82 and 92 from Robertson helped him pull 10-6 clear, needing just three more frames this evening to become the first player into the quarter-finals.

Thirty-year-old Gilbert, who had played his part in a high-quality match, took the final frame of the session to give himself just a slight hope.

Bridgend potter Ryan Day is a two-time former world quarter-finalist and a third appearance in the last eight grew increasingly likely as he took charge against Mark Allen's conqueror Cao Yupeng.

Day has been through the despair of a losing habit but is now coming back, with a major dip in his fortunes having seen him slip from a high of sixth in the rankings to his current 35th place.

He is putting in off-table work to strengthen his mental fortitude and after knocking out the strongly fancied Ding Junhui in round one the Welshman built up a 6-2 lead against Ding's less well known Chinese compatriot Cao.

Breaks of 53, 87, 62, 48 and 46 made the difference for the 32-year-old against a player 11 years his junior.

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