The code is not valid and shouldn't be used. Why would you have content in a table row but not in a table data cell? I think you will find that some browsers also will have problems with that code. You should validate your code at [validator.w3.org...] to find errors like these in your code before it goes into production.
Lots of sites have reciprocal links. If you can swap links with relevant sites then it might help search engines to understand the subject matter of your site; if not now then probably in the future IMO.
If someone hides links by relying on the specific error-handling methods of some popular browsers, then I'd guess that they're not going to be looked on as kindly if they get a human review.
It's an interesting find, but as ciml notes counting on a bot to handle malformed HTML consistently is pretty chancy. It might even depend on other page HTML tags, i.e., the same code on a page of a quite different design might yield a different result.