Ding Junhui triumphed in the third group of this year’s Championship League to join John Higgins and Ali Carter in March’s Winners Group.
China’s Ding, who surrendered a two frame lead to Neil Robertson in last week’s Masters almost repeated the blunder in today’s final at Crondon Park as Judd Trump seemed to have fought from 2-0 down to snatch victory.
However, despite being 50 odd points behind in the decider, defending champion Ding fired a 64 break to ensure he has the opportunity to continue his reign in the competition – as well as the potential to regain a place in the next season’s Premier League.
Ding had only squeaked into the semi-finals, finishing fourth after the round-robin stage behind Stephen Maguire, Mark Selby and Trump.
But he saw off Maguire 3-1 with the aid of three half centuries before edging Trump, who had himself earned a 3-1 win over UK and Masters champ Selby, with a top break of 80.
Martin Gould finished fifth, ensuring the runner-up from Group 2 will have another chance in Group 4, which commences tomorrow.
Masters finalist Robertson and struggling legend Mark Williams are both out, though, after finishing in the bottom two positions and, along with Ding, will be replaced by Barry Hawkins, Mark Allen and Ricky Walden.