Was challenged by #5 yesterday (I’m at #3 currently). I started off very badly–I broke, made something on the break, then attempted a long back cut on a ball with the hopes of just parking it near the corner pocket (there was nothing else good to shoot at), and on its way to the pocket, it hits the eight ball, which caroms off another ball and the eight drops into the pocket for the loss. I lost the game on my first shot!
Next game I won after a decent runout at the end (I think 2 or 3 balls, which doesn’t sound like much, but is a good run for me!). Final game was close. My opponent had a decent shot on the eight to win, but missed it (was a shot into the side pocket, cue ball was kind of hanging in a corner pocket, so was somewhat tough). But he left me with no shot on my two stripes–eight was blocking. So I kicked at one of the stripes, ended up hiding the cue behind my stripes so he had no shot on the eight. He kicked and missed, so I had ball in hand and ran out for the win.
So I successfully defended my spot in the ladder in spite of a horrible start.