Mark Williams
Mark Williams last won the Masters in 2003
Venue: Alexandra Palace, London Dates: 9-16 January
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app

Mark Williams produced a vintage display to beat defending champion Yan Bingtao 6-4 in a thrilling first-round Masters encounter at Alexandra Palace.

Yan, 21, had made breaks of 64, 71 and 57 to lead 3-1 at the interval.

Williams, 46, responded by compiling four half centuries and a century and sealed his win with a run of 85 after Yan kept his hopes alive with a 122.

Welshman Williams will now face John Higgins or Zhao Xintong in Thursday’s quarter-final.

While Yan’s success 12 months ago was played out behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, this was his first taste of playing in front of a packed arena at the tournament’s more established home.

But the Chinese player showed few signs of nerves or pressure as he took a healthy advantage into the interval over Williams who had lost in the first round in five of his six previous appearances at the Masters.

He was aided significantly by two loose pots – to the left and right middle pockets – in the opening two frames when the Welsh two-time winner appeared set for sizable breaks, and a missed black off the spot, in the fourth frame.

However, a sprinkling of genius and good fortune in the fifth frame was the catalyst for a Williams fightback, that ultimately carried him to victory.

The three-time world champion, who is still battling the after-effects of Covid, fortuitously landed safe after wildly missing a pot to left corner and then went on to play a trademark underarm shot to pot the yellow before clinching the frame by potting the pink with a one-handed escape from a snooker.

From there he went from strength to strength, levelling after a break of 62 and making breaks of 67, 64 and 104 as he won the next two frames without Yan potting a ball.

While the Chinese star rallied with a wonderful 122, another fluke at the start of the 10th frame helped Williams finish off the contest.

More to follow.

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