In a sensational squash match between two of the great warriors of today's game, Australia's David Palmer emerged victorious over Frenchman Thierry Lincou after 96 minutes to claim a place in the quarter-finals of the PSA World Open in Rotterdam.

It was a match worthy of the two former champions - both of whom recently celebrated ten unbroken years in the world's top ten. And both 35-year-olds were also making their 12th unbroken appearances in the event since 1998.

Palmer twice took the lead, but Lincou levelled and opened up an 8-5 advantage in the decider. But in a tense finish, it was Palmer who took the final few points as the crowd rose to applaud the pair.

"Thierry's the master," said Palmer after the 11-9, 3-11, 11-8, 6-11, 11-9 triumph which takes him into his seventh - but last - World Open quarter-final. "Even at 2/1 up, he just hangs in and slows the pace down. I knew I had to play faster but he just he sucks it out of you somehow. The slow game suits him, especially on this court. I knew I had to inject some pace in there but it's hard when you're tired.

"In the end I just wanted to go down swinging. I've lost the last couple of matches where I've been tentative. Being my last one, when I got back to seven-all, I just thought if it's there for taking then I'm going to go for it. To be honest it was 50/50 at the end there. I went for some shots and caught him out. He got a bit tentative near the end there I think.

"Suddenly I relaxed and he tensed up a bit and obviously there were a couple of rallies there where we're trying to clear each other. It's one of those ones where 'do you try to play it, or take the let or stroke?' and I just came out better in those situations. It could easily have gone either way though.

"But, yes, I'm very happy to get through. My recent form hasn't been great, but my goal was to come here and get to the quarters.

"It's my last Word Open tournament and I've done that now so I'm very happy. It's nice to obviously have Melinda and the girls watching. And my physio Pat with me who's been with me all my career. I've a lot of good memories from this part of the world."

The US-based Australian will now take on Egyptian rival Karim Darwish after the third seed needed only 31 minutes to see off unseeded Spaniard Borja Golan 11-9, 11-7, 11-1.

But there was more drama to come when defending champion Nick Matthew, the world number one from England, was taken to the wire by Mohamed El Shorbagy before beating the 20-year-old ninth seed from Egypt 8-11, 11-5, 11-9, 5-11, 11-1 in a 100-minute marathon.

"It's a bit of a blur right now," said the 31-year-old from England who is bidding to become the first player to defend the title for 15 years. "It was one of the toughest matches I've had in a few years. I had to fight with every last drip of energy in my body, it was incredibly tough.

"You can't give him enough credit. He was excellent and it was a brutal match, but i just managed to get a good start in the fifth match and it saw me through. The court was really warm and bouncy. We both went through patches where, I think we had drops in energy and then came back fighting - it was a very momentum based game."

The event now moves to the city's New Luxor Theatre where all matches will be played on an all-glass court. Matthew will meet England team-mate Peter Barker, who beat Cameron Pilley 11-7, 12-10, 11-4 to reduce his head-to-head deficit to the Australian to 2/3.

"I'm pleased to be off the plaster courts now and onto the glass court," continued Matthew. "The glass court is where everyone wants to play. We have the extra day off, what with being in the top half of the draw, but the bottom half get an extra game on the glass court. I know which I'd prefer to have!

"The glass court is where squash is played at the very highest level of the game. Three rounds is a lot here, so I'm glad to get through. It's almost like two separate tournaments, with two eight-man draws and then another eight-man draw following that at the New Luxor Theatre in two days time.

"I need to go away now, recover well and come out fighting because it's going to get tougher and tougher."

RESULTS: PSA World Open, Rotterdam, Netherlands

3rd round (top half of draw):
[1] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [9] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) 8-11, 11-5, 11-9, 5-11, 11-1 (100m)
[7] Peter Barker (ENG) bt [16] Cameron Pilley (AUS) 11-7, 12-10, 11-4 (88m)
[8] David Palmer (AUS) bt [10] Thierry Lincou (FRA) 11-9, 3-11, 11-8, 6-11, 11-9 (96m)
[3] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 11-9, 11-7, 11-1 (31m)

More information can be found on the official tournament site

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