John Higgins secured a badly needed first victory in the Champions Cup at Brighton last night, but remains a pale imitation of the player that once ruled the snooker world.
Higgins - former world champion and world No 1 - beat last season's runner-up at the World Championships in Sheffield, Matthew Stevens, 5-4 to atone for the defeat at the hands of Ronnie O'Sullivan on Sunday night.
But while O'Sullivan dazzled against Jimmy White earlier in the day with three century breaks, Higgins had to make do with an opening frame effort of 98.
'It's heartbreaking for me the way I'm playing,' admitted the 25-year-old Scot. 'I'm breaking down all the time when I'm in the balls and running out of position.
'It's so frustrating,' added Higgins who plays White in his final group game requiring a win to take him into the last four.
The world No 2 from Wishaw has had to contend with various cue problems in recent years, but says now: 'I've had half-an-inch added to the cue and it's just the way I want it to be.'
Higgins also says he is fully recovered from the broken wrist injury he suffered over the summer while playing five-a-side football. He said: 'I was lucky it wasn't as bad I thought it might have been when I first did it.'
Higgins was never behind against Welshman Stevens, though he surrendered the lead on three occasions to be taken to the decider.
Breaks of 30 and 32 enabled him to clinch the vital frame 66-12 and leave Stevens still without a win in the competition.
Earlier, world champion and world No 1 Mark Williams eased closer to the semi-finals with a 5-3 win against Stephen Lee.
'I wish I'd brought my fishing rod down here with me because I've got a few days off now,' said the laid-back Welsh left-hander.
'I'm not guaranteed a place in the semis, but I'm pretty close to it.'
Meanwhile, Lee's defeat - his second in the tournament - means he cannot progress to the knockout stages.
Coventry pair battle
Coventry's Phil Birch and Keith Wooding won two knife edge battles to reach the third round of the Men's All England Bowls pairs championship at Worthing last night.
The Avenue clubmates stormed back from 20-14 down, scoring seven shots over the last four ends to snatch a 21-20 first round victory over Poplar, Middlesex, duo Shane Terry and Perry Cook.
In round two Birch and Wooding led 14-6 with seven ends to play against Leominster's David Holloway and Ron Perry but had to withstand a powerful late challenge before edging through 17-16.
Floodlit on the up
The Midland Floodlit Youth League will kick off the new season with a record 39 clubs.
Seven new clubs were elected in place of six departing clubs to increase last year's previous best-ever tally by one.
The newcomers are Nuneaton Borough and Willenhall Town, who are both returning to the league, plus Midland Combination clubs Alveston, Highgate United, Rugby Town and Southam United, as well as Hellenic League side Harrow Hill.
PREMIER DIVISION: Atherstone United; Bedworth United; Boldmere St Michaels; Bromsgrove Rovers; Burton Albion; Hinckley United; Kidderminster Harriers; Paget Rangers; Quorn; Racing Club Warwick; West Bromwich Albion.
NORTHERN DIVISION: Burntwood Town; Gresley Rovers; Hednesford Town; Hereford United; Nuneaton Borough; Rugby Town; Sutton Coldfield Town; Tamworth; Willenhall Town.
CENTRAL DIVISION: Alvechurch; Coleshill Town; Dudley Sports; Highgate United; Kenilworth Town; Marconi; Redditch United; Rugby United; Solihull Borough; Stourbridge.
SOUTHERN DIVISION: Alveston; Evesham United; Gloucester City; Harrow Hill; Malvern Town; Pegasus Juniors; Southam United; Stratford Town; Worcester City.
Body and mind
Birchfield Harriers have teamed up with North Birmingham College to establish a ground-breaking college athletics academy.
The Academy, the first of its kind in Birmingham, will offer some 20 students with first class athletics coaching and support alongside tailor-made further education qualifications.
Worcester is set to host its first ever road race for runners next month.
The organisers are hoping to encourage over 2,000 runners to take part on Sunday September 17 in a three race programme consisting of a 10-kilometres road race, a 5km wheelchair road race and a 3km fun run. Race entry booklets are available by phoning 01905 722323.
A hundred expert anglers from all over England will converge on Grafham Water for the National FF Championship on September 2 - with the prize of a place in the national side at stake.