Yan Bingtao has said he chose to ask the referee to clean the white at a key juncture in his World Championship match with Mark Selby as a joke in a bid to lighten the mood.
The 2021 Masters champion was 10-7 ahead in a match he went on to win when he was left with a fiendish shot.
It was not clear whether the cue ball would pass the blue on the way to the brown that was sat over the pocket, and he agonised over the shot.
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He got up and down at least three times, much to the amusement of the crowd, and lined it up on a number of occasions.
With the crowd gripped, Yan turned to referee Rob Spencer and asked if he would clean the white.
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Selby’s face looked stunned, and Spencer said no as it is an unwritten rule that players do not ask for balls to be cleaned when the gap is so fine for fear of them being replaced in marginally the wrong place.
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Jimmy White and Alan McManus in the Eurosport studio felt it was wrong for Yan to ask the question, and it caused plenty of debate on social media.
People were split on whether it was gamesmanship or a joke to break the tension, and Yan took to Twitter to say it was the latter.
“I chose to let the referee clean the white ball because I was too nervous,” Yan said on Twitter. “I wanted to adjust the atmosphere and try to relax myself.
“I knew the referee would not agree to my request. I was just joking with him to ease the tension.”
After his epic win over Selby, Yan will take on Mark Williams in the quarter-finals.
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