Ding Junhui has assured himself a place in the play-offs of the 2011 Premier League having won night eight in Southampton.
The Chinese Sensation beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 3-1 in the final to go top of the league table on 16 points and is certain of finishing inside the top four, thus qualify for the semi-finals at the end of the month.
The 24 year-old had earlier edged Neil Robertson in a decider after the ‘Rocket’ had done likewise against Judd Trump.
In fact, all four players in action tonight could emerge from the ten-man field to play each other in the last four of the competition with Robertson the obvious man under threat.
The Australian has completed all four of his ties and, with only a three-point margin between him and joint-fifth placed Welshmen Mark Williams and Matthew Stevens, as well as Englishman Ali Carter, the 2010 world champion will have to sweat it out for a couple of weeks to see if he makes the cut.
Points are awarded for each frame won and if either of the above trio can win the ninth night at Banbury next week, they will progress instead.
Defending champion O’Sullivan is on the same number of points as Robertson on 12 but has one more night of action when he takes on bottom of the table Jimmy White in the final league night at Grimsby.
Tonight, it looked like Judd Trump was on course to make it three PL wins out of three when he leapt out of the blocks with a superb 139 total clearance against O’Sullivan but his long game deserted him thereafter.
Ronnie, to his credit, was in good form himself and runs of 53, 89 and 70 helped him on his way to the night’s final.
In the second last four clash, Ding withstood a fightback from recent PTC 8 champion Robertson having led by two at one stage.
But a 42 in the Shoot-out ruled decider – where each frame lasts 10 minutes and the shot-clock is reduced to 15 seconds after the first five – was enough to offer Ding his third final in four PL outings.
O’Sullivan opened the match with a 77 but Ding, showing very few signs of a lack of playing time having decided not to attend much of the Players Tour Championship series, responded to level at one each.
In a tense, scrappy third frame, both players missed frame-winning opportunities before the Masters champion pinched it on the final black and took the spoils in the next with a break of 76.
A good night’s entertainment then for the Southampton crowd who were treated to 14 out of a possible 15 frames on the baize.
The Premier League table can be viewed by clicking here.