David Gilbert has labelled Fergal O’Brien’s style as diabolical
The Irish grinder and David Gilbert set a staggering record for the longest frame ever played in the deciding frame of their final qualifier.
O’Brien, 45, took two hours, three minutes and 41 seconds to seal a 10-9 victory that took him back to the Crucible for the first time in seven years.
That blew the previous record out of the water, held jointly by Barry Pinches and Alan McManus, of one hour, 40 minutes and 24 seconds in 2015 at the Ruhr Open.
And yesterday’s draw has paired O’Brien with defending world champion and world No1 Mark Selby in tomorrow’s first round in Sheffield.
Gilbert raged: “The pace of play was diabolical from pretty much start to finish, and it wasn’t me.
“The last three frames, I was 9-7 up, and it felt like they took about eight hours. It was worse than gruelling – that’s not snooker.”
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Other players joined in on social media. Matt Selt said: “I’m sorry but this amount of time on a shot shouldn’t be allowed… it’s pathetic!”
O’Brien said: “You have the pressure of trying to qualify after previous disappointments, you are running on fumes and it is hard to think clearly after six hours.
“Did I over-play shots and double-check stuff? Probably, but such was the pressure. Some days that’s the way a frame goes, and if you’ve got lemons, make lemonade.”
The already-infamous frame took 44 seconds longer than the current men’s marathon world record.
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However snooker’s No1 grinder Cliff Thorburn, in Sheffield to make the draw, backed the dogged Dubliner.
The 69-year-old Canadian, champion in 1980, said: “I remember a frame against Doug Mountjoy once at the Crucible, 22 minutes on one ball – but I hope Fergal doesn’t take too much stick.
Fergal O'Brien battled his way to a 10-9 win
“It is almost life and death, it is the World Championship and you’re not doing anything illegal. I admire the tenacity, even if you don’t want that every frame.
“But in that situation you are playing for everything, your family, what you stand for, and in a decider for a Crucible place it takes the time it takes.”
Meanwhile five-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has been paired with debutant Gary Wilson, a 31-year-old Geordie who until three years ago was driving a taxi to help fund his career.
Wilson said: “Playing Ronnie, it is a great draw for me. It will be a massive and passionate crowd, millions watching on TV and you couldn’t have asked for a better one. It is a dream come true.
“I will just be going out to enjoy it and it doesn’t bother me that it is a big name. I know what I am capable of and if I play well and score heavily I can cause an upset.
“I have been to the Crucible a couple of times, once when I was nine in 1995 and I did an interview with David Vine on the BBC at the practice table, plus I met Terry Griffiths and Willie Thorne.
“But I like that kind of venue, I think of it like a working men’s club like I am used to playing at up in the north-east. A two table set-up and old guys sitting round in chairs!”