Ben Hancorn and Tony Drago are the first players through to the semi-finals of the 2023 LLP Solicitors World Seniors Championship after they emerged victorious from arguably the best session of world seniors action ever seen.
Both high-quality and entertaining matches went all the way at the Crucible Theatre on Saturday afternoon, with two century breaks and seven further contributions of 50 or more.
Former English amateur champion Hancorn ousted Gerard Greene 4-3 to set up a semi-final showdown with either Stephen Hendry or Alfie Burden.
Greene claimed the opening frame, but Crucible debutant Hancorn drew level with a classy 98 break. An effort of 73 helped the Northern Irishman go back in front, although his opponent squared it again before compiling a brilliant effort of 116 in frame five – the first century of this year’s event – to move one away from progression.
Deserved for a match of such class, Greene made sure it went the distance as he crafted a 73 to make it 3-3.
Both players had scoring opportunites early in the deciding frame but rattled reds in corner pockets. The telling shot would come later when Hancorn laid a very difficult snooker with the reds spread open. Greene escaped but left a red on, and Hancorn fully capitalised with a cool and decisive effort of 49 to come through an epic.
An even closer and more dramatic encounter ensued in the second match of the day as Maltese legend Drago rolled back the years to pip Mark Davis 4-3.
Aided by breaks of 50, 40 and 59 made in typical quick fashion, former International Open finalist Drago led 3-0 and stood one away from advancing.
However, 2016 champion Davis conjured up a stirring comeback, starting off with a 137 total clearance – the tournament’s highest break this year, so far – to get on the board.
In a remarkable fifth frame which saw Drago make a break of 63 and go within touching distance of victory, Davis somehow fluked a red along the top cushion when escaping from a snooker and went on to complete a clearance of 33. The Hastings cueist then registered a run of 98 to force the tie into a deciding frame.
In a memorable seventh and final frame, the contest went down to the colours. After potting a brilliant green, Drago missed a relatively straightforward brown under normal circumstances. However, Davis subsequently missed it himself, and the 57-year-old from Valletta slotted home brown to pink to record an emotional win and set up a date with either Jimmy White or Adrian Ridley in the final four on Sunday.