World Snooker: Crucible curse strikes again as champion Bingham crashes out
Stuart Bingham became the latest victim of the 'Crucible curse' as the man who lifted the trophy last May crashed out on day one of the Betfred World Championship.
The 39-year-old said in the week leading up to his first-round clash with Ali Carter that to be asked about the fabled curse was "an honour", as it reminded him of his achievement.
But as two-time former finalist Carter stunned him 10-9 in a classic match, Bingham was left to reflect on the fact he was joining illustrious company, this time for the wrong reasons.
Sixteen previous first-time world champions had tried and failed to retain the title when returning to Sheffield 12 months on from their maiden triumphs, and Bingham becomes the 17th on the cursed list.
It has become snooker's mountain that cannot be climbed, and cursed or not, Bingham was on his way home.
From 8-5 behind he had strung together four frames in a row to lead 9-8, hitting the front with a 113 break.
But back came Carter, firstly when making 102 to level and force the decider and then when edging over the line after both men saw match-winning opportunities slide by.
Bingham missed two pinks to the middle that were to prove so costly, and then a tough final red when the frame hung in the balance.
Carter cut it in and added the pink to effectively end Bingham's hopes.
A superb yellow followed, and the man who has twice survived cancer in recent years was soon able to celebrate one of his finest victories.
During his glory run last year, Bingham saw off Ronnie O'Sullivan, Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy in successive matches to take the title, each time as the underdog.
This time the roles were different, with Bingham the favourite despite his opponent's pedigree in this arena.
Carter said he would be "fresh as a daisy", despite having to contest three best-of-19-frame qualifying matches, the most recent on Wednesday when he saw off Dominic Dale.
Neither he nor Bingham were anywhere close to daisy-fresh when at 11.25pm the handshake came.
Bingham said: "I'm gutted to be going back home. I battled to 9-8 and missed a couple of chances to wrap the game up. Fair play to Ali. It just wasn't meant to be for me. It was a tough draw and I just came up short. I hope he goes on to win it now."
See Danny Hall's Snooker Column in The Star every day from Monday