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  Friday, 14 February, 2003, 12:38 GMT
Top seeds keep falling
John Higgins, former world champion
Higgins struggled to find his form
John Higgins, Mark Williams and Stephen Hendry have become the latest stars to suffer surprise losses at the LG Cup in Preston.

Higgins was humbled 5-1 in the third round by unfancied compatriot Chris Small in Thursday's afternoon session.

And he was followed out by fellow Scot Hendry, who was beaten 5-3 by Paul Hunter.

Williams then fell foul of the Preston jinx that has seen a host of highly-ranked players crash out, losing 5-1 to a resurgent Steve Davis.

Ronnie O'Sullivan also found himself in trouble, going 3-1 down, before rallying to oust Michael Holt 5-3 to keep his title hopes alive.

Holt was going round pulling little faces and touching the table - I don't want to see that when I'm watching snooker

Ronnie O'Sullivan

Small compiled 300 unanswered points to go 4-0 ahead, and he grabbed the sixth frame to book his quarter-final place, completing an incredible turn around in fortunes.

This time last year he was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondilitis, a disease of the spine, and feared he would have to quit the sport because it became too painful to play.

But revolutionary therapy using magnets got him through the rest of last season and he is competing aided by steroid injections and a course of tablets.

"It's amazing because 12 months ago I could only just lift my neck up to see the cloth on the table," said Small.

"The way I've beaten John makes it the best performance of my career. To outclass a top player like that is unbelievable. I outplayed him today and it's a great feeling."

There's no reason why I can't go on to win

Paul Hunter

Davis said he had played his best snooker for some time, after stunning world number two Williams to reach the last eight.

"That's the best I've played for ages," grinned the six-times world champion.

"If I can play decent stuff like that I have no fears of meeting anyone," he said.

Hendry's bid to win one of the few trophies missing from his cabinet ended after a long tactical eighth frame which Hunter won.

Stephen Hendry in action in a pro-am golf tournament
Hendry may wish he had stuck to golf

The Englishman admitted that victory was particularly sweet after Hendry beat him at last year's World Championship.

"It was nice to get revenge on Stephen," said the world number nine.

"There's no reason why I can't go on to win the title."

After his victory, O'Sullivan said he had been distracted by Holt's mannerisms.

"He was going round pulling little faces and touching the table. I don't want to see that when I'm watching snooker.

Other action

"To be honest, I felt dodgy from the word go and it was only when my back was against the wall that I decided to come out and have a go."

In Thursday's other action, Jimmy Michie edged out Ulsterman Patrick Wallace 5-4 to reach his first ranking tournament quarter-final in three years.

And Englishman David Gray outlasted compatriot Nigel Bond 5-4 .

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Phil Yates
"Davis looks to be in great shape"
Steve Davis v Mark Williams
Watch Davis seal his 5-1 win
Paul Hunter v Stephen Hendry
See Hunter complete his 5-3 victory

Action from Preston

Internet links
Links to more LG Cup stories are at the foot of the page.


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