Steve Davis marked his return to the circuit with a thrilling 10-9 victory over Jamie Cope in the first qualifying round for the 2015 World Championship.
The six-time world champion dropped off the Main Tour after almost three and a half decades as a professional at the end of last season but had been given an invite to play as the numbers competing this year increased and off the back of him being a former champion.
The 57 year-old didn’t disappoint his large fan base, albeit put them through the ringer a little, as he survived a late fight back by his opponent to eventually see off him off on the final black in dramatic circumstances.
Davis opened the encounter by taking the first four frames against Cope, a player who has struggled on the Main Tour for the last number of years.
The 29 year-old did come back to end the first session just 5-4 down before drawing level after taking the first frame of Friday’s evening bout of play but could never get his nose in front as Davis maintained a narrow advantage until the end.
On the 30-year anniversary of his infamous black ball agony against Northern Ireland’s Dennis Taylor, Davis held his nerve in a tense final frame to keep alive his hopes of reaching the Crucible for the first time in five years.
2010, of course, was the scene of the last great run of his career when he beat the defending champion John Higgins en route to a quarter-final appearance in Sheffield that captured the imagination of the sporting world.
Elsewhere on the third day of qualifying, Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien eased to a 10-5 success over Hammad Miah to set up a clash with another young Englishman, Chris Wakelin, who beat Nico Elton 10-6.
Dublin’s O’Brien dominated the contest from the outset and knocked in a high break of 125 as he, like Davis, seeks to return to the Theatre of Dreams for the first time since 2010.
Ironically, the veteran duo are drawn to meet each other if they can both win their next matches and reach the final stage next week.
Meanwhile, twice semi-finalist Joe Swail eased to a 10-4 victory over Alexander Ursenbacher while Dominic Dale outpointed John Astley 10-6.
It’s been a pretty good qualifying tournament so far for the Chinese contingent, and Liang Wenbo, Xiao Guodong and Zhang Anda made it eight who have so far reached the second round after a trio of comfortable wins yesterday.
Finally, English tour stalwarts Peter Lines and Mark Joyce recorded 10-6 triumphs over Rodion Judin and Ian Burns respectively.
Saturday marks the end of the first hurdle with the encounter between Jimmy White and James Wattana expected to dominate the media attention.
Somewhat oddly, though, the powers that be have decided to not schedule it as one of the streamed matches.