A mistake on the last frame of a riveting battle ended Ahmad Taufiq Murni's 2013 SEA Games men's 9-ball campaign yesterday.
Brunei's No 1 came from behind to force a 8-8 stalemate against his Thai counterpart Tanut Makkamontee, but poor safety play on the 4-ball ultimately cost him the first round tie - the third time his SEA Games 9-ball competition has ended at the same stage after similar defeats in 2007 and 2011.
Tanut put himself in a bind after poor positional play on the 3-ball blocked his view of the 4-ball, which he failed to pocket and saw Taufiq take to the table.
The angle on the 4-ball was too small for Taufiq to make proper contact and he decided to play safety to get the 4-ball in front of the 8-ball, which was a few inches to the right.
However, the 4-ball kissed the 8-ball and opened the table up - with Tanut going on to seal the win.
The SEA Games isn't over yet for Taufiq though, who will face the Philippines' World No 12 Dennis Orcollo in tomorrow's 10-ball opening round.
"That was a good fight and everyone one could see it was a close game - but now he needs to refocus for the 10-ball event on Tuesday," said national coach Lim Tat Hwe.
"Good safety play comes from experience.
"This (SEA Games) is an alternate-break format so it was good that Taufiq was able to get back to 8-8, but he really should have pocketed the open 6-ball when he was leading 7-6," added Lim of another important moment in the match.
Despite Tanut tied for 360th in the latest Asian Pool Billiards Union (APBU) rankings and Taufiq 41st, yesterday's game at the Pool & Billiards Centre, Wunna Theikdi Sports Complex did not reflect those standings.
Tanut put Taufiq in a tight spot in the first frame and a foul on the 1-ball put the Thai back on the table, and he would go on to take an early 1-0 lead.
Taufiq came back strongly to take the next two frames after breaking and clearing in both instances to go up 2-1.
Calm and composed, Tanut claimed the following three frames to turn the tables on Taufiq 4-2.
Taufiq, whose best achievement this year was a last-eight finish at August's Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in South Korea, came back to 4-3 but his opponent would take the following frame to regain his two-frame cushion at 5-3.
Taufiq scratched while trying to play safety on the next frame, though Tanut would later miss the 7-ball and put Taufiq back on the table, with the scoreboard soon reading 5-4.
Tanut won the next frame but a miss on the following one got Taufiq standing, and he would cut the deficit to 6-5.
A golden break after that - Taufiq bagged the 9-ball on the break - leveled the scores at 6-6.
Taufiq returned to the table after Tanut missed the 3-ball and went on to take a 7-6 lead - but Taufiq's miss on the 6-ball allowed Tanut to force a 7-7 stalemate minutes later.
Strong safety play by Tanut forced Taufiq to foul on the next frame, with the former then going ahead 8-7.
Undaunted, Taufiq cleared all the balls after breaking during the next frame.
Tanut took to the table for the next break but had bad positioning on the 4-ball after pocketing the 3-ball. Ultimately, though, it was a mistake Taufiq could capitalise on.