Snooker

Defending champion Stuart Bingham, pictured, trailed Ali Carter 5-4 on the first day of the Betfred World Championship in Sheffield.

Ali Carter has world champion Stuart Bingham on the back foot in Sheffield

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Stuart Bingham was in danger of falling victim to Ali Carter on day one of the Betfred World Championship as the notorious 'Crucible curse' threatened to strike again.

Defending champion Bingham trailed qualifier Carter 5-1 before a rousing response saw him close the gap to 5-4 at the end of the session.

Sixteen first-time world champions have tried and failed to retain the title when returning to Sheffield 12 months on from their maiden triumphs.

In 1982, Steve Davis was crushed 10-1 by Tony Knowles in the first round, the worst loss suffered by an incumbent champion, and when Bingham saw frames slipping away rapidly to fellow Essex potter Carter he knew he was in trouble.

Two-time former runner-up Carter said he would be "fresh as a daisy" for the tournament, despite having to contest three best-of-19-frame preliminary matches, the latest on Wednesday when he saw off Dominic Dale.

Coupled with Bingham's prediction that he would need up to half a session to settle himself down on his return to the scene of his greatest triumph, it was almost no surprise that Carter built his early lead.

In the seventh frame Bingham missed an easy black off its spot and returned to his seat, looking utterly dejected. But Carter failed to capitalise and the frame went to 39-year-old Bingham, who followed up with breaks of 96 and 90 to give himself an improved chance heading into the concluding evening session.

That match and the clash between Peter Ebdon and Marco Fu were set to play to a finish in the evening session.

Hong Kong cueman Fu built a handsome 6-2 lead over 2002 world champion Ebdon thanks to breaks of 81, 111, 138, 84 and 50, but the slow pace of play meant they had insufficient time for the scheduled ninth frame.

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