Asian Billiards Champion Devendra Joshi of Petroleum Sports Promotion Board defeated defending champion Alok Kumar 608-599 in a pulsating senior billiards pre-quarter-final encounter to steal the day's honours in the National Billiards and Snooker championship at the Goregaon Sports Club in Mumbai on Thursday.
Pankaj Advani and Geet Sethi had hogged the limelight over the last few days, but today Joshi fashioned one of his most remarkable wins over a formidable opponent.
Alok got off to a dream start with a 173 in only his third visit, which gave him into a substantial 200-points lead. But two visits later, Joshi replied strongly with an impressive 158.
Mumbai-based Joshi, then, set the stage for a humdinger and after a significant 85, he rifled a crucial 248 before missing a simple red in the center pocket that allowed Kumar to return and sustain the pressure.
With Joshi leading 608-522 with merely four minutes to go in the two-hour time-limit contest, Alok, needing 87 for a win, made a final burst with a brilliant cannon, followed by a red pot, to take top-table position.
His effort helped him close in with an unfinished 77 as the beep went off, to give Joshi a thrilling nine-point win.
"It was a quality contest," said Joshi after the nail-biting finish. "I was striking the balls well and thankfully, got my rhythm back. Alok started off very well, but I realised the last minute was probably the longest in my life".
"Alok is a player of high calibre and in those final seconds, while he was on that significant big break, I certainly could not take anything for granted," he added.
"As the current Asian (billiards) champion, Joshi is a very capable player. I think I squandered that initial lead by missing some simple pots and allowed him to come back into the match," said a disappointed Alok.
Others who made it to the quarter-finals were, B Bhaskar of Karnataka, Shyam Jagtiani and Ashok Shandilya (both Railways), Pankaj Advani of PSPB, Geet Sethi of Gujarat, Rishabh Thakkar of Maharashtra and Sourav Kothari of Bengal.
Results: Senior pre-quarter-finals
B Bhaskar (Kar) bt Dhruv Sitwala (PSPB) 546-445; Shyam Jagtiani (Rly) bt Siddharth Parekh (Rly) 599-367; Ashok Shandilya (Rly) bt Prem Prakash (TN) 719-454; Devendra Joshi (PSPB) bt Alok Kumar (PSPB) 608-599; Pankaj Advani (PSPB) bt Arun Agrawal (Mah) 1025-331; Geet Sethi (Guj) bt Mohd. Asim (Rly) 1007-338; Rishabh Thakkar (Mah) bt K. Venkatesh (Rly) 644-441; Sourav Kothari (Bng) bt Nitin Kohli (UP) 703-416.