The first two rounds of the sixth and final European Players Tour Championship event took place over the last two days – with 32 players moving forward to the Munich Open just after the New Year.
Ken Doherty won his two encounters over a pair of amateur opponents to strengthen his position inside the top 25 in the PTC Order of Merit standings.
The Dubliner’s victories over Michael Wild and Adam Wicheard mean that his chances of playing in the Grand Finals for the first time are ever-improving – with the strong likelihood that the tournament will be returning to Galway for a second straight year.
Countryman Fergal O’Brien, though, surrendered a two frame lead over rookie pro Joel Walker to bow out, meaning that the former Masters finalist will need a very strong run in EPTC5 next month in Scotland to have any realistic chance of qualifying for the Grand Finals.
There were a few shock results as two amateur players were able to book their flights to Germany – the always improving Kyren Wilson and Justin Astley of England.
Astley enjoyed a fantastic 4-3 triumph over Premier League champ Stuart Bingham while 20 year-old Wilson enjoyed back-to-back 4-3 successes over Marcus Campbell and Jamie Jones.
Liang Wenbo continued his mini resurgence of late, making it seven wins out of his last eight matches with a morale-boosting defeat of compatriot Ding Junhui while his fellow Chinese Tian Pengfei and Liu Chuang also progressed.
Welshman Matthew Stevens produced arguably the victory of the two days. He first came back from 3-0 down to Pankaj Advani to force a decider before compiling a match-clinching 68 clearance to edge the thriller on the final black.
However, Advani’s fellow Indian Aditya Mehta is still standing after wins over Steve Davis and Dechawat Poomjaeng with Thais Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon continuing their recent good form to also advance.
Former world champs Neil Robertson and Graeme Dott are through, as are ranking event winners Stephen Maguire, Mark Selby, Dominic Dale, Ricky Walden and Alan McManus.
The rest of the last 32 will be made up of mostly Englishmen with Norwegian representative Kurt Maflin the only other to add some international flavour.
The remainder of the tournament takes place in Munich from 4-6 January.
The full draw and results can be viewed by clicking here.