CHELMSFORD'S two snooker stars have both progressed to the second round of the World Championships.
Mark King, the world number 30, caused a surprise by beating Northern Ireland's Mark Allen 10-8, before Ali Carter set up a repeat of last year's final with tournament favourite Ronnie O'Sullivan by overcoming Ben Woollaston 10-4.
Chelmsford-born King overcame a tricky qualifier against China's Yu Delu to reach the Crucible, and found himself paired against the outspoken Allen, who was one of the favourites for the crown after impressive form since the turn of the year.
After edging the first session 5-4, King lost the first three frames of the second to trail 7-5, and was 8-6 behind before breaks of 74 and 89 brought it to 8-8.
A break of 81 put him on the brink before he won a nervy 19th frame to reach the last 16 for the seventh time.
He is yet to progress beyond that level, and will face another fancied player in Ding Junhui in the second round, with the tie starting on Saturday.
King said: "I've said it a million times, on my day I can beat anyone. In the past I have put myself under pressure, so this time I came here with no expectation and just tried to relax and enjoy it.
"I twitched on the pink in the last frame and thought I was going to throw up.
"But I held myself together and when I potted match ball I nearly started crying. When he won the 12th frame to go 7-5 up he gave it the fist and that spurred me on."
Carter, the world number 15, had a more straightforward win over Leicester's Woollaston and will now lock horns with O'Sullivan – the man who also beat him in the Crucible final in 2008. Carter had trailed 4-3 at one stage against Crucible debutant Woollaston but won seven frames in a row to book his spot in the last 16 – and a clash with O'Sullivan.
'The Rocket' is playing his first ranking event since last year's success, but Carter believes that may help his opponent in his quest to retain the crown.
"I'm not buying into the fact that Ronnie hasn't played in a competitive match because he's probably fresher than all of us and rest assured he's been practising very hard for this tournament," he said.
"Ronnie's played out of his skin against me a lot of the time. I've played him in a lot of high-profile matches and he's never thrown in a bad performance. We've practised together so he knows how good I am."
The clash between Carter and O'Sullivan also begins on Saturday.