John Higgins became the first player to qualify for the Winners Group of the 2013 Championship League by beating Ali Carter 3-1 in Group One at Crondon Park.
The Scot had dominated the seven-man group, winning five of his six encounters to reach the last four where he ousted Martin Gould 3-1.
With the competition for the remaining three play-off places tight, Ali Carter reached the semi-finals despite being on the receiving end of three of his half-dozen matches.
The World Championship runner-up edged Mark Davis, who has had a good record in this tournament in the past, 3-2 in the semis but could not see off an in-form Higgins – who compiled a hat-trick of tons over the course of the two days play.
Over the last number of seasons the Championship League has served as a lucrative money-earner for several of the top professionals in the game, not to mention a convenient way to keep match fit at an important juncture of the campaign.
Seven groups of seven players each produce seven winners, who then all go on to compete in one additional Winners Group – where the overall champion gains an invitation to the Premier League.
Each match is played over a best-of-five format with £100 for each frame won and additional prize money for reaching the semi-finals and beyond.
Scotsman Higgins pocketed a handy £5,100 for his exploits over the last couple of days but it is actually those who stay in the tournament for longer who can be the most rewarded.
For the players who reach the semi-finals, as well as he who finished fifth after the round-robin stage (Judd Trump on this occasion), advance to the subsequent group for another shot.
The bottom two of each group get eliminated so Shaun Murphy and former champion Matthew Stevens suffer early exits with Stuart Bingham, Neil Robertson and Stephen Maguire replacing the pair and Higgins for Group Two tomorrow and Thursday.
The Championship League is an event aimed at the betting market and is streamed on more than 30 online betting websites, with the action itself played behind closed doors and not available to the paying public.