Snooker - Higgins out despite maximum, Robertson through

John Higgins crashed out of the UK Championship, losing 6-5 to Mark Davis in the second round despite a magnificent 147 maximum clearance that threatened to spark a famous comeback after one of the most dramatic finishes to a match in the history of the tournament.

Snooker - Higgins out despite maximum, Robertson through

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147 from Higgins

The three-times champion found himself staring down the barrel of defeat at 5-2 behind and having not potted a ball for almost half an hour before rattling off 219 unanswered points, including a maximum, to pile pressure on his opponent. And with Davis looking shell-shocked, Higgins should have completed the comeback with a match-winning clearance in the decider but for one last moment of drama.

With Higgins looking well below his best, Davis looked to be coasting to the quarter finals after chalking up successive century breaks to get to within one of victory. But Higgins showed true champion spirit to bounce back to 5-5 and from 53 points behind in the decider, he needed only pink and black to seal a famous comeback before somehow missing the pink off its spot with the match in his pocket. A relieved Davis regrouped to pot the ball he needed for victory and a quarter-final place against Matthew Stevens after one final tense safety exchange.

The match was slow to the boil. Higgins looked to be in control of the opener but with his break on 41, a missed red with the rest let Davis in with a 36. With the frame going down to a safety exchange on the final colours, an outrageous fluked yellow from Davis allowed him to clear and take the frame.

The former champ was in first again in the second with a 34 break but needed a second bite at the cherry to pick off the final red and remaining colours to level at 1-1 as Davis missed a good opportunity for a two frame lead.

A long safety battle dominated the next after Higgins left a black over the corner pocket and the reds pushed to the same side of the table. A protracted frame ensued, both players chipping in with small cameos before the frame went down to the final five colours, Davis clearing from green to black to lead again.

An extraordinary fourth followed. Higgins was in first with a 33 but Davis responded with a calm 61 and should have extended his lead at the interval before missing the yellow as the frame went down to the colours. Higgins then fluffed his lines too with an awful positional shot from green to brown and then brown to blue before missing a simple blue to gift Davis the frame.

Higgins hit straight back with a frame winning contribution to reduce the gap to one but Davis extended his lead once more with a nerveless 106 clearance to maintain his cushion.

With his pot success up to an impressive 93 per cent, Davis rattled in another century, this time a superb 104 to leave Higgins hanging by a thread at 5-2 behind. Higgins potted his first ball for 26 minutes to begin his long fight back and in true champion style Higgins knocked in a brilliant maximum to reduce his arrears to two frames.

The comeback gathered further momentum in the next, an attacking safety scattering the reds and letting Higgins accumulate an unanswered 72 to get to within a frame and leaving the Englishman wondering where his next pot was coming from.

A predictably tense 10th followed, Higgins getting the better of a long safety exchange to draw level against a clearly rattled opponent.

After all that had gone before, Davis held his nerve to knock in a composed 38 under pressure before laying a snooker that looked to have allowed him a match winning clearance. But at 53 points clear, a missed red saw Higgins produce a fine break that looked to have one the match before that last, astonishing missed pink.

In the earlier finishing match, Neil Robertson looked a shadow of the player who had rattled in four century breaks on the way to thrashing Tom Ford 6-1 in the opening round but was still able to beat a below par Barry Hawkins 6-2 to set up a quarter-final against Mark Selby.

Both players started slowly, missing a number of opportunities to get points on the board before Robertson cleared from red to green to leave Hawkins needing snookers in a frame lasting nearly 45 minutes.

The Australian got the better of another long safety exchange in the next but with the frame at his mercy missed a very makeable black with his break on 41. And despite missing the red he required to make frame safe, a further Hawkins error allowed Robertson to extend his lead.

Robertson was in first in the next and looked like his usual, fluid self in compiling an opening 39 before running out of position. But again Hawkins failed to capitalise on a promising position whilst amongst the balls, allowing Robertson another chance to establish a 3-0 cushion. But with only a red and colour needed, the Australian inexplicably left a red over the pocket and Hawkins composed himself well to clear to the black and nick the frame.

Shocked into action, Robertson responded with a 57 to start the fourth but for the second frame running allowed Hawkins back in as frame again went down to the colours. But instead of taking a tough yellow on the rail, Hawkins opted for safety and Robertson picked off the yellow to establish a two frame advantage.

Two heavy scoring visits proved enough for Hawkins to pull another back on resumption but a quite brilliant break of 67 with the black and pink out of commission for most of it proved enough to restore his two frame advantage.

Hawkins again had his chances in the next and blew a glorious chance with the frame for the taking but another miss with the balls well set allowed Robertson to get to within one of victory despite a huge kick on his positional shot from green to brown that threatened to derail him. And Robertson completed victory after Hawkins failed to get the snooker he required with blue, pink and black remaining to seal his quarter-final berth.

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