Ken Doherty gave his Republic of Ireland team a place in the quarter-finals of the Snooker World Cup with a gritty last gasp performance in Thailand.
After Pakistan – the nation who shocked the Irish in the opening day of the tournament last Monday – won the last two frames to beat Egypt 3-2 in the morning session, the Irish knew that they had to win two frames against table-toppers Wales in the final encounter or grant the Middle-Easterners an unlikely passage into the last eight.
Mark Williams and Matthew Stevens have been one of the most consistent partnerships during the laborious round-robin stage without having played their best snooker throughout.
Yet, that knack to grind out unlikely frame victories resurfaced early on against Ireland when the first two frames narrowly went in favour of the top seeds.
Dubliners Doherty and Fergal O’Brien claimed the crucial doubles clash to reduce the gap but Wales won the penultimate frame to increase the pressure on 1997 world champion Doherty.
The former world number 2, though, has been renowned for his steely determination in intense situations and he steered his country into the knock-out phase following a tense finale.
Ireland have performed poorly in the group stages but, now that they have emerged unscathed, will know that they have as good a chance as any of the teams of lifting the trophy come Sunday.
Fourth seeds China will be Ireland’s opponents in the quarter-finals after Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo hammered host nation Thailand 4-1.
Australia join them in second place after a similar scoreline triumph over United Arab Emirates, setting up an intriguing tie with Wales.
The two comprehensive results for China and Australia meant that dark horses Malta were squeezed down the standings and missed out on qualification by a single point.
It is a shame because veterans Tony Drago and Alex Borg provided good entertainment all week, yet should still be happy with their overall achievement in running the two seeds so close.
The bottom half of the draw was orchestrated in a more straight forward fashion.
Northern Ireland and England were already assured their fate among the final eight but did battle today to see which unit would claim top spot in Group C.
In an entertaining affair in which Mark Allen and Gerard Greene conjured up the first doubles century of the event with a memorable 110, it was the English duo of Mark Selby and Ali Carter that ran out 3-2 winners.
They will meet Hong Kong for a semi-final spot while Northern Ireland will challenge ‘Dream Team’ Scotland in a mouth-watering clash between two of the form teams in Bangkok this week.
Now that all the seeds are in the knock-out rounds, the snooker and the entertainment should multiply over the weekend’s play. Picking a winner is nigh-on impossible.
The group tables and format can be viewed by clicking here.