JIMMY WHITE, a wild-card entry because he no longer holds a top-16 ranking, brought the house down as he marked his 20th appearance at the Benson and Hedges Masters with a 6-1 first-round victory and a total clearance in the last frame of 136 against Joe Swail at Wembley last night.
Over 1,300 spectators roared their approval as White coasted home in only 85 minutes. "The way I was cueing suggested to me I'm in the right frame of mind to kick on from here," said the world No 18 on a day when both wild cards put their name into the second round.
White joined Shaun Murphy, 18, whose wild-card entry was guaranteed when he won the Benson and Hedges championship in November. Both now face even tougher opposition for a place in the quarter-finals with White paired against Ronnie O'Sullivan and Murphy up against Stephen Hendry.
"Joe didn't play well at all and at 3-0 the job was done. But my trouble these days is I don't know how I'm going to play from one match to the next.
"I was determined to win this one but I wasn't going to kick myself if things weren't going well for me."
While White questioned the mentality of the owner of a mobile phone which went off as he played a shot, he added: "I'm up for it against Ronnie. I must also be involved from shot one and still be in there at the end."
He also received a commemorative plaque from David Thomson, Wembley's director of operations, to mark the 20th anniversary of his Masters debut.
It's all going wrong though, results-wise, for Matthew Stevens, the world No 6 who last season won the Regal and the B & H Masters but these days just cannot seem to win a match in the deciding frame.
Stevens was beaten for the sixth time this season, in the decider, when Yorkshireman Paul Hunter reached the quarter-finals in a 6-5 verdict over the Welshman.
Stevens, 2-0, 3-1 and 5-4 ahead, was pipped at the post after Hunter, runner-up to Ken Doherty in last week's final of the Regal Welsh Open, survived a 43-minute 11th frame in which he cleared up from yellow to pink to win his first match
at Wembley at the third attempt.
Murphy, from Irthling-
borough, delivered a shock result on the first morning of play when he defeated Marco Fu, the world No 15, 6-1, in just under two-and-a-half hours of spectacular snooker.
The Wembley stage held no fears for the teenager who never looked back after winning the first frame on the black. He followed on with successive breaks of 113 and 102 and was quickly on the verge of history in the fourth frame.
But, with his break on 84, Murphy missed a difficult green, and the chance had gone of becoming the first player to record three successive centuries since the first Masters in 1975.
BENSON & HEDGES MASTERS (Wembley).- 1st rd: J White (England) bt J Swail (Northern Ireland) 6-1; S Murphy (England) bt M Fu (Hong Kong) 6-1. 2nd rd: P Hunter (England) bt M Stevens (Wales) 6-5.