David Morris has won his third qualifying match for the World Championship after a hard-fought 10-7 triumph over former semi-finalist Alan McManus.
Fan favourite Jimmy White, though, failed in his bid to return to the Crucible as he was dumped for the second year in a row by China’s Liu Chuang, 10-8.
Kilkenny’s Morris came into the penultimate stage in full confidence after comfortable victories over Kacper Filipiak and Mark Joyce but was made to work against the veteran Scot McManus.
By all accounts, both players have had seasons to forget but Morris was clearly on the front foot having enjoyed a couple of morale-boosting wins earlier in the week as McManus was coming in cold for his opening encounter.
The Irishman led the opening session 5-3 but former Masters champion McManus soon levelled, which ensured a tense second half to the tie.
That said, ‘soon’ may not be the operative word as both players appeared to struggle for any rhythm in a drawn out affair.
The next four frames were traded but Morris retook the lead in the 15th to lead 8-7 and a timely clearance to the colours in the next gave him breathing space.
Within one of success, the three time Irish champion was not to be denied and sealed the victory in the following frame to set up an intriguing tie with Barry Hawkins in the final stage – a player who has reached the Crucible in each of the last six campaigns.
For Jimmy White, it was a case of another year where things were not to go his way in the qualifying section and it looks increasingly ominous that he may never grace the famous theatre in Sheffield again.
The ‘Whirlwind’ did well to recover from losing the first three frames to only trail by one at 5-4 after the first bout of play and appeared in confident mood this evening as he won three of the opening four frames to take a 7-6 lead.
However, White, who turns 50 in May, failed to capitalise on chances in the next two frames and, even though he compiled a 70 break to level at 8-8, Liu Chuang composed himself in the next two for a memorable victory.
Despite that, the result of the day belongs to 17 year-old Luca Brecel, who overcame established pro Michael Holt 10-9 in a thrilling contest.
Belgium’s Brecel had until now failed to illustrate the talent he displayed on the amateur scene in recent years.
But that has been firmly put to rest and the teen will now be seen as the real deal, both in terms of playing style and temperament, as he matched Holt in every department of the game.
If Brecel can beat Mark King in the final qualifier, he will become only the fifth 17 year-old to reach the World Championship but, more importantly, the youngest.
The others, of course, were Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and the aforementioned Liu Chuang.
Elsewhere, Alfie Burden ended a season to forget for Jack Lisowski with a 10-3 defeat of his fellow Englishman while countrymen Peter Lines, Joe Jogia and David Gilbert also advanced – the latter with an excellent 10-6 scoreline over Mike Dunn.
China’s Liang Wenbo and Cao Yupeng ousted Justin Astley and former finalist Nigel Bond respectively while Jamie Burnett withstood a fight-back from Sheffield’s own Adam Duffy to prevail 10-7.