Thrilling Climax to World Qualifiers

The World Championship qualifiers have ended after a dramatic final day of action at the Ponds Forge International Centre in Sheffield.

Several of the opening eight matches in the final round had ended under routine circumstances on Tuesday.

But Wednesday’s action was typical edge of your seat stuff as an array of tense encounters went down to the wire.

Right at the top of the list was the titanic tussle between Gloucester duo Robert Milkins and Michael Wasley.

Milkins, 16th in the world rankings, only failed to qualify for the Crucible because Ronnie O’Sullivan was automatically given the top seed as defending champion, despite being ranked below the 38 year-old.

The ‘Milkman’ always knew he was going to have a difficult task against his friend and often practice partner, but nobody could have predicted how close it was going to be.

Locked throughout most of the clash, the pair could not be separated after 18 frames with the scores tied at 9-9, resulting in a thrilling climax.

Both players had multiple chances but the sense of the occasion was almost overwhelming as one miss after another let the other in.

Amazingly, Milkins led by 25 points with 25 remaining but Wasley cleared to force a re-spotted black, of which he duly potted with a wonderful long effort to clinch his debut appearance at World Championship.

Somewhat surprisingly, there have been a lack of deciding frame conclusions during the qualifiers overall but what ensued more than made up for that.

If one re-spot in the final frame wasn’t enough then how about a second?

27 year-old Robbie Williams fought back from 7-2 down to lead Fergal O’Brien 9-8 and go within one frame of an unlikely glory.

However, the Ferginator forced the decider and to add to the drama he came from 57 points down in the last to ensure yet another unbelievable tie finishing with a re-spotted black.

After a flurry of missed pots and exchanged bouts of safety, Williams finally took his chance for a memorable win late into the night and booked his own first place at the Crucible.

While the other matches didn’t go all the way this evening, many of them certainly went close.

39 year-old Robin Hull qualified for the first time since 2002 and in doing so ended Peter Ebdon’s run of 22 consecutive Crucible appearances with a grueling 10-8 triumph over the former world champion.

The Finn has twice been regulated from the Main Tour and his career at the top appeared to be over but victory in the European Amateur Championship last year offered him one final chance.

Hull, who decided not to play in a lot of the tournaments this season, made the most of his opportunity to get back to the Theatre of Dreams for the second time after coming through all four rounds in qualification – mimicking the achievements of Wasley, Williams and Kyren Wilson.

Elsewhere, shock quarter-finalist in 2013 Michael White came from 6-3 down to overcome Matthew Selt 10-7 while Welsh compatriot Ryan Day – three times in the last eight – enjoyed a more comfortable 10-5 success over Stuart Carrington.

Meanwhile, England’s Martin Gould, who has endured a poor campaign, continued his excellent return to form by edging Liang Wenbo 10-7 in a topsy-turvy affair and Jamie Burnett came through a 10-8 winner against Ben Woollaston.

Finally, in an all-Chinese contest, Xiao Guodong hammered Li Yan 10-1 to book his maiden place at the Crucible.

That’s it then. After a long eight days we now know the 32 players who will compete in this year’s World Championship.

Saturday is the opening day of the tournament but, before that, the draw for the opening round takes place at 12pm on Thursday.

We eagerly await.

The draw can be viewed when made here.

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