Ali Carter beats champion Stuart Bingham 10-9 in a thrilling match on day one at the World Championship in Sheffield.
A Sergio Aguero hat-trick moved Manchester City closer to securing Champions League football next season with victory at 10-man Chelsea.
City profited from slick break-aways, the first goal arriving when Kevin De Bruyne fed Aguero, who fired in.
Again De Bruyne led a clinical counter after the break, finding Samir Nasri, who put Aguero clear to finish smartly.
Thibaut Courtois was sent off for fouling Fernandinho, allowing Aguero to whip home his third from the spot.
Chelsea threatened occasionally before the goals but faded and City move third, a point ahead of Arsenal – who have a game in hand – and four clear of Manchester United.
When this fixture was scheduled last year, it seemed unthinkable that only one of these sides – the last two winners of the Premier League – would be battling for a top-four spot.
They have both underachieved, but City at least have targets as the season draws to a close and they were clearly sharper in west London, none more so than Aguero.
The Argentinian has now scored at least 20 goals in three Premier League seasons, a feat only achieved by Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Les Ferdinand.
City’s red-hot duo
There can be little doubt City’s season has gained a new lease of life in recent weeks and it is notable it has coincided with the return of De Bruyne from a lengthy injury lay-off.
Both he and Samir Nasri drew saves from Courtois in the opening period and it was De Bruyne who always looked likely to turn defence into attack for the away side.
When the Belgian suffered knee-ligament damage in January, City were second in the table, three points behind leaders Leicester. They managed just two wins in seven league games without him and one wonders how close they would be to lifting the title now had he stayed fit.
He has now had a hand in 28 goals this season – scoring 15 and creating 13 – and encouragingly for manager Manuel Pellegrini with a Champions League semi-final to come, his relationship with the clinical Aguero looks sharper than ever.
Aguero, who now has 13 goals in 12 league games, will deservedly make headlines. But in De Bruyne, he once again has a support act boasting pace and guile in abundance. Could it be that the enforced rest through injury has left him fresh to do damage at the business end of the season?
Top four for City?
Perhaps only a loss of focus in fixtures either side of their two-legged Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid could prove destructive.
But Pellegrini said afterwards that “it is another team” with everyone fit and with the likes of Fabian Delph, Wilfried Bony and Bacary Sagna on the bench, they look to have options for when fixtures mount.
A trip to Southampton comes between the Madrid fixtures, with the visit of Arsenal arriving four days after the second leg.
Captain Vincent Kompany should be fit for fixtures next week and even without him City were solid. Going forward they were blistering when they needed to be and having conceded just two goals in six league games, their base looks solid. Another tilt at Europe looks likely.
Chelsea wait for Conte
Chelsea are seemingly in limbo while they await the arrival of their next manager – Antonio Conte.
Since announcing his appointment on 8 April they have lost both league fixtures, ending a 15-game unbeaten run and also interim manager Guus Hiddink’s proud record of not losing two league games in a row since he was in charge at PSV Eindhoven in 2004.
This wasn’t a performance where the Blues had clearly downed tools – they had an early Pedro effort cleared off the line and Ruben Loftus-Cheek went close twice – it just lacked killer instinct and a desire to finish any good work.
There are questions to be answered at Stamford Bridge. A 10th-straight home game without a clean sheet equals a run set in 1970. But unwanted records aside, just how did a side that eased to the Premier League title last May end up with nothing to play for by this stage of the season?
Will such a collapse lead to a Conte clear out this summer? On this showing, there was an evident gulf in class with a side not even competing for the title.
Courtois’ dismissal summed up a miserable day with fans already on their way to the exits but he could have few complaints having been rounded by Fernandinho.
Man of the match – Sergio Aguero
What the managers said
Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink: “Chelsea are a difficult situation this season. We managed to get out of the relegation zone but Chelsea need to be in the first four places. We were knocking on the door but we didn’t create open chances. They outplayed us on 60-70 yard counters.
Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini: “I am satisfied with the team, they played well in attacking and defending. When all the players are fit and playing together, it is another team. I wanted revenge for the FA Cup defeat when we played here with a young team and they beat us. Tonight was a complete game.”
The stats you need to know
- Aguero is the third opposing player to score a hat-trick at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League – the other two were scored by Nwankwo Kanu and Robin van Persie.
- This was Chelsea’s heaviest home defeat in the Premier League since losing 3-0 to Sunderland in November 2010.
- Thibaut Courtois is the sixth goalkeeper in Premier League history to receive two red cards in the same season.
Chelsea, now playing for just a top-10 finish, go to Bournemouth in a week while Manchester City go to relegation-threatened Newcastle on Tuesday.