Masters Snooker: Defending champion Mark Selby beats Mark Davis 6-5 in thriller
Defending Masters champion Mark Selby edged out Mark Davis 6-5 in his opening round match at Alexandra Palace.
Last Updated: 12/01/14 10:19pm
The 'Jester from Leicester' cruised into a 4-0 lead, but was forced to fight for victory against fellow Englishman Davis in the end in a cagey 55-minute final frame after the 41-year-old drew the match level at 5-5 following two half-century breaks.
The 30-year-old, who has won the prestigious invitational event three times - in 2008, 2010 and last year - came through following a tense safety exchange to sink a red in the middle pocket and book his place in the quarter-finals.
Breaks of 59 and 80 helped Selby cruise through the opening four frames, before Davis hit back after the mid-session interval to pull a frame back with a break of 80.
Davis then claimed the sixth but Selby pounced on a missed red in the next to take the best-of-11 match to 5-2 in his favour.
A break of 136 earned Davis the accolade of scoring the first century knock in the tournament as he also claimed the eighth frame, and he scrapped out the next with a 49 clearance to move to within one of Selby.
Davis showed why he is nicknamed 'The Battler' from Hastings when he took command of the 10th frame with a break of 62, before putting Selby to the sword with a 61 clearance after a mistake by the world No 1.
That set up a tense decider which lasted just short of an hour due to missed pots and a lengthy safety battle, but Selby rallied to claim victory.
After his win, Selby told worldsnooker.com: "I controlled the match to go 4-0 ahead, but I seemed to go back out and lose focus.
"For whatever reason, I struggled a bit. Every credit to Mark. He came back strongly. You just have to wipe out everything that has gone before and focus on the final frame."
In the evening game, four-time world champion John Higgins defeated Stuart Bingham 6-2.
Higgins took the first frame before Bingham levelled at 1-1, but then the Scot stole a march to move 5-1 ahead.
A brief rally from the 37-year-old Basildon-born Bingham saw him cut the deficit to 5-2, but the writing was on the wall and Higgins won the next frame to join Selby in the last eight.