Jimmy White won three matches in a row for the first time in more than two years as the 10-time ranking event champion reached the fourth round of the Bulgarian Open on Friday.
The ‘Whirlwind’, who had a tough start to the season by losing a succession of close games in deciding frame finishes, was more ruthless in the third European Tour event of the campaign in Sofia.
White, now 52 and the oldest competitor on the Main Tour, fired in a century break of 100 as he came from behind to beat amateur Sydney Wilson 4-1 in the opening round before a brace of 4-2 successes over Dechawat Poomjaeng and James Cahill earned him a last 16 berth.
This marks the first time that the Londoner has been this far in a Players Championship event since the 2012 Gdynia Open, when he went one better and reached the quarter-finals.
To repeat that, White will have to overcome the difficult challenge of 2005 world champion Shaun Murphy on Sunday.
Even if he is to fall short in that encounter, to win three matches in this minor ranking event series could prove paramount to his eventual professional status survival.
White is currently in the heat of battle to stay inside the top 64 in the world rankings, where those automatically regain their place on the circuit for the following season.
However, even if the six-time World Championship runner-up was to drop out, these wins could help him earn an invitation through the separate Order of Merit list for European Tour tournaments.
Elsewhere, world champion Mark Selby wasn’t at his best and was made to work hard for his three victories as he put the disappointment of failing to qualify for the International Championship behind him.
The ‘Jester’ needed all but one frame to see off Barry Pinches, Joe Swail and Fraser Patrick, and will face Robbie Williams for a place in the last eight tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Alan McManus showed little sign that his tally of wins is going to let up as he reached round four with a victory over Mike Dunn.
The Scot will do battle with Mark Davis while, finally, young Belgian Luca Brecel set up a meeting with 40 year-old Mark King.
It wasn’t to be the best of days for the Irishmen involved as Ken Doherty and Josh Boileau were sent crashing in the last 128.
Dubliner Fergal O’Brien, who recently reached the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters, didn’t fare that much better as he went down in the second round to England’s Mark Joyce.
Amateur TJ Dowling is the last remaining Irishman in the draw and he faces Jamie Cope on Saturday, as the second half of the first round field gets whittled down.