CRUCIBLE debutant Ashley Carty remains in contention for a World Championship shock after an impressive first session against former champion Stuart Bingham.
Sheffield’s iconic venue is just a stone’s throw from Carty’s home in Rotherham and he appeared at ease under the lights in what is his first appearance among the world’s elite.
Facing off with 2015 champion Bingham, both players were far from their fluent best with the Yorkshireman just one frame behind ahead of tomorrow’s final session.
Bingham leads 5-4 after capitalising on key Carty errors but a strong second session could see him upset the Essex cueman, with the winner set to face either three-time world champion Mark Williams or Alan McManus in the second round.
Just reaching the Crucible is a monumental achievement in itself for Carty, coming through three tough qualifying rounds to secure his place in the main draw.
But the 25-year-old isn’t done yet, and with Bingham off colour in the first nine frames, the door remains open for the biggest result of his career.
Bingham took the first frame before Carty struck back, though he found himself 3-1 down at the mid-session interval – with neither player making a significant break in the match.
The game threatened to run away from the home favourite but he ground it out well, exchanging frames before producing an excellent 118 break in the seventh to reduce the gap to 4-3.
Once again Bingham was keen to pull away, restoring his two-frame advantage on the final black of the eighth frame after his opponent fouled when onto the final six colours.
But Carty pulled out the stops in the ninth and final frame of the session, overcoming the disappointment of missed opportunities to make a break of 69 and narrow the deficit to 5-4 at the halfway point.
The two will return to the table in Saturday’s morning session, with the first to ten frames booking their place in the last 16.
But they’ll do so in an empty arena after the government announced that the easing of certain restrictions in England has been postponed.
The World Championship at the Crucible – along with racing at Glorious Goodwood, and cricket in London and Birmingham – were among events selected by the Government as one of the small number of pilot events for the safe the return of spectators to live sport, with snooker the only indoor event.
Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship from 31st July – 16th August with analysis from Jimmy White.