Jimmy White produced one of his best performances in the last twelve months to beat Passakorn Suwannawat 6-2 in the second qualifying round of the UK Championship.
The ‘Whirlwind’ came into today’s match on the back of surrendering his World Seniors title to Darren Morgan last night but showed no signs of any disappointment in an accomplished performance against his Thai opponent.
The match could have taken a completely different outlook, though, after two crucial frames that went the way of the Londoner before the mid-session interval.
Suwannawat nicked a close opener and, despite a 56 from his experienced opponent, looked to be on his way to a two frame cushion before an inexplicable miss on a straight final black allowed White in to level the match early on.
The 49 year-old took the lead in the third and, through a series of excellent, tactically constructed shots, gained the two snookers he required in the fourth to snatch another frame on the black and lead 3-1 at the break.
From there, the 1992 UK champion never really looked back and runs of 84 and a classy 103 century in the last coaxed White to a timely victory.
Having missed the tournament two years ago in his trials in the jungle for I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here, Jimmy has no ranking points to defend, meaning there is a golden opportunity for the former world number 2 to get back inside the world’s 48 in the rankings.
This would crucially mean one less qualifying round for the next bout of ranking events and, potentially, the season-ending World Championship in April.
This time last year, Jimmy went on an excellent run to qualify for the UKs only to be narrowly defeated by arch rival Stephen Hendry at the venue and will meet talented Welshman Jamie Jones tomorrow in an effort to continue his progress.
White’s close friend Tony Drago was also in need of a victory having suffered an inconsistent first half to the campaign.
The Maltese star has been dropping down the rankings of late but a 6-3 triumph over Andrew Norman will aid his cause – especially given the fact that the UKs carry the second most amount of ranking points in the season.
By contrast, a player firmly going in the right direction is England’s David Gilbert, who continued his overall good form with a 6-1 thrashing of Joe Swail.
Swail is in danger of dropping out of the top 64 at the end of the year which could put pay to a long and memorable career in the professional ranks and Gilbert, only a few places outside the magic number that automatically get back onto the circuit next year, could be a player that pushes the Northern Irishman out later down the line.
Elsewhere in the evening session, Peter Lines edged Finland’s Robin Hull 6-4 in a topsy-turvy tie while Adrian Gunnell won the last three frames in his clash with David Grace to emerge victorious by the same scoreline.
Anthony McGill powered past Sam Baird 6-2, China’s Li Yan produced an excellent 70 break in the decider to edge Andy Hicks 6-5 while Mark Joyce’s clash with Rod Lawler is 5-5 at the time of writing.
Earlier in the day, there was a quartet of deciding frame thrillers as Ben Woollaston, Xiao Guodong, Jimmy Robertson and Ian McCulloch all battled through to the third qualifying stage 6-5.
Like Swail, McCulloch is on the brink of falling off the Main Tour and has admitted recently that he wouldn’t go to Q-School if that eventuality was to materialise.
However, the 40 year-old has been nothing but a grinder in his 20 year career in the pro ranks and back-to-back deciders have reignited his chances of staying afloat.
Meanwhile, youngsters Adam Duffy, Cao Yupeng, Michael White and Tian Pengfei all impressed in solid victories – the latter especially in a somewhat surprise whitewash drubbing of compatriot Liu Chuang.
Two more rounds of qualification then to be played out over the next two days. Who will be the 16 names that will earn their coveted place at York next month?
The draw and a full list of results can be viewed by clicking here.