World Snooker Championship: Mark Selby beats Kurt Maflin 10-9

Defending world champion Mark Selby celebrates victory
World Championship
Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 18 April-4 May
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, HD, Red Button, Connected TV, online, tablets, mobiles and BBC Sport app. Full details here.

Defending champion Mark Selby survived a major scare to narrowly beat Kurt Maflin 10-9 in the first round of the World Championship at the Crucible.

The world number one, 31, was on the brink of exiting against the battling Norwegian, ranked 38.

Selby made a century as he opened up a 6-3 lead after the first session.

Qualifier Maflin won five frames in a row in the final session to lead 9-8, but Selby forced a decider before taking the last to go through.

"This is the hardest tournament in the world to win. At 8-8, I felt I was not going to win," said Selby.

"Everything I tried to do, I felt it was just not going to be my match but thankfully I got through."

Maflin, who nearly quit the sport in 2005, had to come through three rounds of qualifying to reach the main stage, and staged a sensational comeback on his first appearance at the Sheffield venue.

Ultimately, Selby, who defeated Ronnie O'Sullivan in last year's final, kept his composure by winning the last two frames to scrape through.

It is only the first step to breaking the 'Curse of the Crucible' as no maiden winner has gone on to retain the trophy the following year.

Kurt Maflin
Kurt Maflin was born in London but now competes for Norway

That is not the only hoodoo Selby will need to overturn. He won the previous ranking event - the China Open - earlier this month, but has never achieved back-to-back majors, and despite winning six ranking titles in his career has not triumphed at the same event twice.

He began his tournament defence in impressive fashion, compiling 84 in the first frame, before further breaks of 108 and 69 put him in control.

Maflin was not overawed, though, making 96 - his highest break of the match - plus an 88 during the opening session.

At one stage in the final session he was 8-4 down as Selby made a superb 127 clearance, but showed incredible resilience against a player known for his toughness and drew level at 8-8.

Remarkably, Maflin went ahead for the first time with the run of the ball on his side, but Selby forced the decider and held himself together in the last to progress.

Maflin said: "Mark's game is tough, he is tough to beat and deserved to win. I was quite calm out there all day and felt pretty good. I am happy but wished it went the other way."

In other matches, Scot Stephen Maguire surprisingly fell 6-3 behind against compatriot and debutant Anthony McGill, with the winner facing Selby in the second round on Thursday.

Another Scot, John Higgins, is 6-3 up against England's Robert Milkins. Both matches resume at 19:00 BST on Sunday.

Marco Fu leads Jimmy Robertson 5-4 and they play to a finish at 10:00 BST on Sunday, while Graeme Dott is 5-4 in front against Ricky Walden.

Top Stories