Mark Selby fell victim of the Crucible curse and a rookie Scot with pots of class as Anthony McGill pulled off a monumental Betfred World Championship shock.
Qualifier McGill exuded calm assurance as he saw off the defending champion 13-9 to book a quarter-final place, never appearing overawed by the match or the gradual position of control he developed over the course yesterday.
Selby said of McGill: “He played fantastically all match and thoroughly deserved to win.
“I played really poorly in the second session. Every time he got a chance he seemed to punish me. I said to him at the end that if he played like that there’s no reason he can’t win it.
“I’ve known Anthony for a few years now. I’ve no embarrassment in losing. You look at the greats who’ve won it for the first time and not defended it.”
This is McGill’s first World Championship and it had already been one to remember before he crossed cues with Selby, having beaten his fellow Glaswegian and sometime practice partner Stephen Maguire 10-9 in the opening round, finishing with a century.
Sinking Selby made it even more special, and now the sky is the limit for the 24-year-old, who has been quietly earmarked for greatness by those who know him best. Former Crucible semi-finalist Alan McManus, a close friend and a steady hand on McGill’s shoulder, has tipped the former Junior Pot Black runner-up to take the trophy in Sheffield one day, and Ronnie O’Sullivan said there would be no worthier champion because of his dedication.
In 2005, Shaun Murphy came through qualifying and went on to lift the title. Tantalisingly Murphy could be next in line for McGill, a slender, shy man with a short ginger crop and a contagious giggle he often breaks into around the table. Selby, the Jester from Leicester, found little to laugh about during their contest.
Like Murphy 10 years ago, McGill was a 150-1 outsider with bookmakers before the tournament began.
McGill was the architect of Selby’s demise, but the famous curse, which has at the very least become a factor lodged in the back of every first-time champion’s mind, will be cited too.
No maiden winner of the World Championship in Sheffield has returned a year later to retain the trophy, with Selby becoming the 16th man to falter, joining a list that includes greats of the game such as Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and O’Sullivan.
A steady opening session on Thursday had seen he and McGill reach 4-4, but the Scot stretched 10-6 clear by lunch yesterday after firing breaks of 56, 125 and 54, and there was no flinching from the outsider when play resumed last night.
They shared the opening two frames, before 87 from McGill took him 12-7 clear, inflicting a mortal blow to Selby’s prospects.
When Selby edged the next he at least had the thinking time the subsequent interval allowed, knowing he needed a further five frames without reply to extend his defence.
He re-emerged with a break of 101 to make it 12-9 and keep McGill waiting. But not for long. After a safety battle, McGill potted a terrific red to the middle pocket and was away on a victory charge, firing in a brilliant 82 before Selby offered a warm handshake.
McGill said: “I’m just ecstatic. To beat the world champion at the Crucible, I just can’t believe it
“No-one expected me to win. I wasn’t expecting myself to win, I was just hoping to put up a decent fight and try my best.
“I knew if I gave everything my mind would have been at ease whatever the result
“To beat Mark 13-9 is just a dream. I knew it wasn’t over even when it went 12-7.
“He’s not world champion for nothing.
“Time and time again Mark Selby comes back at people, and better players than me.”
In the afternoon session, four-time world champion John Higgins found himself trailing 9-7 in his last-16 clash with world No 3 Ding Junhui, having been 5-1 up at one stage on Thursday.
Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen holds a 5-3 lead over Barry Hawkins after they got their second-round match under way in Sheffield.