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Snooker: Crucible curse is too much for Ebdon.

PETER EBDON fell victim to the curse of the Crucible last night as Paul Hunter brought an end to his reign as Embassy World Champion.

Ebdon put up a brave defence of his title and recovered from 12-10 down to force a 25thand deciding frame in the last quarter-final tofinish.

But the 32-year-old world number three made one error too many and Hunter held his nerve to earn a semi-final with Irishman Ken Doherty.

Ebdon was attempting to become the only first-time champion to successfully retain the trophy.

However,after his 13-12 defeat he joins an illustrious list of other 'failures' which includes Steve Davis,Alex Higgins, Stephen Hendry,John Parrott, Mark Williams and Ken Doherty.

Ebdon sportingly shook Hunter's hand after the game but he will be bitterly disappointed by his early exit.

Leeds-based Hunter arrived in Sheffield with only one win to his name at the Crucible in four previous trips.

But he now has a hat- trick of victories under his belt in a bid to become the first Yorkshireman to lift the trophy since Joe Johnson in 1986.

The players could not be separated after the first 16 frames but Ebdon went in front at 10-9 with a break of 109.

Hunter took three in a row to lead 12-10 with breaks of 55,106 and 71.

Hunter's 47 at the start of the decider was not sufficient to finish the job but when Ebdon missed a red into a centre pocket on 47-13,he hung his head,knowing his reign was about to come to an end.

``I'mbitterly disappointed but I tried my best,'' said Ebdon.

``Paul is a tremendous player and I knew it was only a matter of time before he did well at the world championship.''

Unflappable Hunter looked as cool at the end of the eight-hour duel as he did at the start.

And his laid back attitude could stand him in good stead in the remainder of the tournament.

``I knew at the start of the game it was going to be a tough match,''he said.

``To be honest I fancied it going all the way. But from 12-10 to 12-allI never got a chance.

``Had I got a chance and messed it up,I would have been more worried.''

Meanwhile Stephen Lee is expecting a ``cracker'' when he plays new world number one Mark Williams for a place in the final.

Lee, who knocked out crowd favourites Steve Davis and Jimmy White to reach the lasteight, wored own Marco Fu 13-7.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 1, 2003
Words:423
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