Dramatic Race for Final Crucible Spot Continues

Stephen Maguire, Michael White and Robert Milkins all won thrilling ties that went the distance in the China Open to keep alive their ambitions of gaining the final automatic qualifying spot for the upcoming World Championship.

Maguire holds a slender £12,000 lead over White in the rankings, with £85,000 up for grabs for the champion this week - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos
Maguire holds a slender £12,000 lead over White in the rankings, with £85,000 up for grabs for the champion this week – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos

All three were on the brink of defeat in their respective encounters before proving their battling qualities as they refuse to let their chance of avoiding the dreaded qualifying rounds for the Crucible subside.

Scotland’s Maguire currently holds the slim advantage but a loss this early in the competition would have opened up the opportunity even further for others to reel him in.

Indeed, his opponent today in Ryan Day still maintained hopes of his own of an unlikely last-minute leap into the top 15 in the world rankings that would have guaranteed a spot in Sheffield at the end of the month.

However, finding himself 4-2 down the tenacious Maguire fought back to deny the Welshman in a deciding frame thriller.

Not to be outdone, Milkins came from 4-1 down against lowly ranked Zak Surety – the highlight when he reversed a 65-0 deficit in the penultimate frame – to eventually outlast the youngster 5-4 as well.

While White only had to overturn a 4-3 scoreline, the Indian Open champion impressively managed to do so against eighth seed Stuart Bingham.

White and Milkins are on a collision course to meet in a tasty third round clash on Thursday, with the loser knowing that he’ll be forced to travel to Ponds Forge next week in an attempt to win the three matches necessary in order to reach the Worlds.

Maguire finds himself in the other side of the draw with his fate still in his own hands, but faces an equally challenging contest with a resurgent Barry Hawkins – finding some form following a difficult period in 2015.

Hawkins compiled a tournament-high break of 138 in his 5-2 triumph over Dominic Dale.

Meanwhile, it was another pretty good day for the seeds overall despite the casualty of Shanghai Master Bingham and the later demise of International Championship winner Ricky Walden to Gary Wilson.

World champion Mark Selby and the in-form Mark Williams enjoyed routine 5-0 successes over Elliot Slessor and Michael Leslie respectively, while World Grand Prix champion Judd Trump surrendered just the solitary frame in his 5-1 drubbing of Peter Ebdon – a two-time victor of the China Open.

Reigning champ Ding Junhui appeared to be finding his feet somewhat despite a couple of mid-match wobbles in seeing off Mark Davis 5-1 while Shaun Murphy made runs of 113 and 72 to come from 4-3 down to edge Anthony McGill in a high-scoring affair.

In an all-Scottish battle, John Higgins got the better of fellow former world champion Graeme Dott, reeling off three successive frames after the interval to register a 5-2 win.

Elsewhere, in another close finish Finland’s Robin Hull pipped Mark King to continue his push to break into the top 64 before the season’s conclusion in order to retain his professional tour card.

Thailand’s Dechawat Poomjaeng followed up his surprise victory over Neil Robertson with an easy 5-0 whitewash of the ever-struggling Jack Lisowski while Kurt Maflin and David Gilbert also booked last 16 places.

Finally, 27 year-old Jamie Jones ended Marco Fu of Hong Kong’s fightback from 4-2 down to prevail 5-4 and wrap up the day’s play.

The full draw can be viewed by clicking here. 

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