Mark Williams in flying form as pigeon interrupts World Championship

Williams had won his match with a session to spare before the bird landed on the table during Yan Bingtao’s match with Mark Selby.

By Press Association Published: 22 April 2022 - 5.34pm

Mark Williams clipped the wings of his friend and protege Jackson Page on a day when a pigeon fluttered onto centre stage at the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.

The avian interloper flew down from the Crucible’s rafters and briefly alighted on the bottom cushion as Yan Bingtao prepared to break off in the sixth frame of his match against defending champion Mark Selby.

It was ushered out via the players’ entrance, past a bemused Selby who was returning to the arena, and tournament officials later confirmed it had been captured and released unharmed.

Earlier, Williams had soared into the quarter-finals with a session to spare after wrapping up a dominant 13-3 win over 20-year-old Page, who trains at the three-time champion’s club in Tredegar.

Williams produced some of the best form of his career to compile six centuries and eight further breaks of 50-plus as he rendered Friday night’s scheduled concluding session obsolete.

And he revealed he had piled on the agony for his young opponent, whom he had also fleeced in a card game on the eve of what turned out to be the concluding session of their match.

Betfred World Snooker Championships 2022 – Day 7 – The Crucible
Mark Williams beat Jackson Page 13-3 at the Crucible (Ian Hodgson/PA)

“We had dinner on Thursday night and a game of cards in the hotel reception – I took £15 off him,” revealed Williams. “We will do the same thing again after this match – just chill out.

“If it was anybody else, I’d love to have won with a session to spare. I don’t feel like that playing Jackson. It’s a good learning curve for him and we will see how he bounces back.”

Shell-shocked Page called Williams’ form “ridiculous” but the 47-year-old sought to play down his chances of a fourth crown, insisting: “I ain’t a championship contender. I can’t play much better than that at my age. I cannot improve.”

“We had dinner on Thursday night and a game of cards in the hotel reception – I took £15 off him. We will do the same thing again after this match - just chill out.”
- Mark Williams

Opening with a break of 110 to move further in front, Williams then snatched the 10th frame with a clearance to black after Page missed the last red to leave him stranded on a highest break of 69.

Two half-centuries in the next frame made it 10-1 for Williams, who was fulfilling his tongue-in-cheek claim that he wanted to “destroy” Page, who set up the meeting with an impressive first-round success over Barry Hawkins.

Page got a second frame on the board but Williams was merciless, firing back-to-back centuries and then, after Page clawed back another frame, finishing with a 56 to book a last-eight meeting with either Selby or Bingtao.

Betfred World Snooker Championships 2022 – Day 7 – The Crucible
Mark Selby is locked in a gruelling encounter with Yan Bingtao (Ian Hodgson/PA)

Selby twice fought back from two frames behind to end the opening session against the former Masters champion all square at 4-4, ahead of the final two sessions of their match on Saturday.

Ronnie O’Sullivan also has one foot in the last eight after establishing a 6-2 lead over Mark Allen in the first session of their second-round clash.

O’Sullivan, who is seeking to level Stephen Hendry’s Crucible record of seven titles, threatened to mark the 25th anniversary this week of his record-breaking five-minute maximum in fitting style as he took 10 reds and nine blacks at the start of the first frame.

Breaks of 131, 69 and 96 helped O’Sullivan move into a 5-1 lead then he stole the seventh with a break of 57 after Allen, the 15th seed, missed a green off its spot with the frame at his mercy.

Betfred World Snooker Championships 2022 – Day 7 – The Crucible
Ronnie O’Sullivan got the better of Mark Allen in their opening session (Ian Hodgson/PA)

The Northern Irishman rallied to take the final frame of the session but faces an uphill struggle when the pair return for the second of three scheduled sessions later on Friday.

Stephen Maguire is two frames away from the quarter-finals after surging to a dominant 11-5 lead over reigning UK champion Zhao Xintong ahead of their concluding session on Saturday.

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