Byline: Phil Yates
DAVE HAROLD could not believe it, and neither could John Parrott. It was fast approaching midnight, at the conclusion of a truly extraordinary 4 1/2-hour match, when Harold defeated Parrott 6-5 on a respotted black to earn his place in the semifinals of the Benson and Hedges Masters the hard way.
Wembley Conference Centre has witnessed many unlikely revivals but few could rival Harold's great escape. Leading 5-1, Parrott appeared certain to progress but Harold stubbornly refused to accept his fate and, by snatching a sequence of tied frames at the death, he somehow clawed his way back.
Time and again, Parrott stood on the verge of victory but, try as he might, the winning line proved elusive. Harold stole two frames on the black and another on the pink, all three from well adrift, to force the contest its full distance but, in terms of drama, the best was to come.
Parrott, by now under a mountain of pressure, led by 25 only to miss the green using the rest. Harold cleared up to necessitate a tie-break black and, after a seven-shot exchange, potted it from distance to consign his opponent to a very long journey back home to Merseyside.
Harold goes forward to meet Ken Doherty or Fergal O'Brien, while Parrott will surely spend the next few days pondering a very expensive one that got away.
"It's my own fault entirely," he said. "I had enough chances to sink a battleship but the vital ball just kept scuppering me. You wouldn't want to be my family cat at the moment."
Several players have collapsed having assumed a position of overwhelming strength at the Masters, but losing so many tense, close frames in such dramatic circumstances will be particularly galling for Parrott. "I shouldn't have lost, regardless of my confidence," the 1991 world champion, who arrived at the event having won only one match all season," said.
Paul Hunter, meanwhile, continued to shake off his reputation as an underachiever by beating Peter Ebdon 6-3 in an earlier quarter-final.
Results, page 34
Television: BBC2: 1.10pm - 5.15pm; 6.45pm - 7.30pm; 11.20pm - midnight
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