Protesters disrupted the evening session of the World Championship in Sheffield by invading the arena and tipping orange paint powder onto one of the tables shortly after play resumed.
A man wearing a ‘Just Stop Oil’ T-shirt interrupted the match between Robert Milkins and Joe Perry by jumping onto one of the tables and tipping out the powder, while a woman was prevented from executing a similar stunt on the other table after being tackled by quick-thinking referee Olivier Marteel.
Play was suspended for the evening on the affected table, which will be re-covered overnight, while the match between Mark Allen and Fan Zhengyi resumed after a delay of approximately 45 minutes.
It is the second time in three days that a major domestic sporting event has been disrupted, after 118 people were arrested at Aintree on Saturday as they tried to scale the perimeter fence at the Grand National.
The protesters were held backstage by tournament security officials until the police arrived.
South Yorkshire Police later confirmed two people had been arrested and remained in custody.
“Two people were detained after protestors gained entry to The Crucible earlier this evening (Monday 17 April),” the force said in a statement.
“A 30-year-old man and a 52-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. Both are in police custody.”
The opening session between Milkins and Perry will now be played on Tuesday evening, when their second session had been scheduled. Their concluding session will be played on Thursday morning.
Just Stop Oil issued a statement which read: “At around 7:20pm, two Just Stop Oil supporters have disrupted the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, interrupting play.
“The pair proceeded to cover the tables in orange powder paint before being removed by security and arrested.
“They are demanding that the Government immediately stop all new UK fossil fuel projects and are calling on UK sporting institutions to step into civil resistance against the Government’s genocidal policies.”
It is not the first time play at the Crucible has been subject to unlikely interventions. In 2008 a streaker danced around the table prior to the start of the final session of the final between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ali Carter.
Last year, a pigeon briefly interrupted play midway through the second-round match between Mark Selby and Yan Bingtao.
Allen and Fan were given a standing ovation upon their return to the arena, and Allen duly responded by turning a break of 24 into a 126 clearance to black as he resumed the event in style.
Having duly gone on to complete a 10-5 win, Allen said: “I’ve got to be honest, I was completely oblivious to what was going on, but fair play to Olivier and the security staff who were totally on the ball.
“It could have been a lot worse – you saw what happened on the other table and how much disruption it caused. I was quite chilled, I just waited in my dressing room and had a cup of tea.”
Asked about the methods used by the protesters, Allen added: “I don’t quite get it – I don’t know enough to have a valid opinion but I’d say there are better ways of going about it than disrupting a major sporting event.
“I feel like talking about it now is giving them airtime they don’t deserve, because it is two idiots disrupting what should have been a nice night of snooker.”