After emerging successfully from the Indian Open qualifiers before the weekend, Irish trio Ken Doherty, Fergal O’Brien and David Morris repeated the trick at the Barnsley Metrodome for the China Open on Saturday and Sunday.
1997 world champion Doherty needed all seven frames to overcome Sanderson Lam and book his flight for New Dehli and he was taken to a decider again in a 5-4 victory over the struggling Dave Harold.
Harold has dropped outside the top 64 in the world rankings this season and it looks for certain that this will be his last season in a long career as a professional, unless of course he decides to go to Q-School next May.
Despite the Englishman boasting a high break of 128, runs of 53, 50 and then a 49 in the ninth frame helped Doherty to the tight triumph.
O’Brien and Morris had a much more comfortable time of it in their clashes with amateur players.
O’Brien saw off the challenge of George Pragnall 5-2 while Kilkenny’s Morris went one better in beating Welshman Jamie Rhys Clarke 5-1.
Right throughout the draw the majority of the seeded players advanced unscathed.
Defending champion Ding Junhui, world no.1 Mark Selby and UK champion Ronnie O’Sullivan all recorded 5-1 victories while Australian Neil Robertson was given a sterner test but still came through a 5-3 winner against talented Chinese teenager Lu Haotian.
Michael Leslie’s 5-1 drubbing of Mark Allen represented the biggest shock of the round but judging by the Northern Irishman’s Twitter feed he didn’t seem overly upset about missing the long trip to the Far East.
Elsewhere, form players Shaun Murphy and Judd Trump both easily progressed to Beijing, as did former champions Mark Williams, Stephen Maguire, Graeme Dott and Peter Ebdon.
Jimmy White’s 5-4 defeat at the hands of Ashley Carty ensures that the ‘Whirlwind’ faces a nerve-wracking climax to the campaign as he battles to stay inside the world’s top 64 and thus remain on the tour.