Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien’s Republic of Ireland bowed out of the World Cup on Friday after a 3-2 defeat to England ended their chances of reaching the last eight in China.
England were also eliminated in Wuxi under dramatic circumstances, despite overcoming the Irish in their final group game.
Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham, the world’s top two players, finished third in Group D so missed out on a quarter-final place.
Thailand’s Dechawat Poomjaeng and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh beat UAE 4-1 to finish level on points with England, but placed second having won the head-to-head match at the start of the week.
Thailand go through to meet Wales on Saturday, while group winners China B, comprising Zhou Yuelong and Yan Bingtao, will face Australia.
A jubilant Un-Nooh said: “It feels great because we’ve never qualified for the second round before. This is a first for Thailand. I feel like we need to shout very loud. Now we have got this far, we are not scared of anything.”
Poomjaeng, who won the last and decisive frame against UAE’s Mohamed Shehab, added: “Now we have confidence. I want to beat everyone now. The final is so far away, but we will do it. We never give up.”
Selby said: “We won four out of five games and still didn’t qualify. We had such a tough group.”
There was also an exciting finish in Group C, after Welsh duo Mark Williams and Michael White had beaten Australia 3-2 to top the group. That result meant outsiders Pakistan could qualify by beating Northern Ireland 5-0 and that was on the cards when they went 4-0 up.
But Gerard Greene beat Muhammad Sajjad in the last frame, which meant Australia’s Neil Robertson and Vinnie Calabrese scraped through, just a point ahead of both Pakistan and Northern Ireland.
A relieved Robertson said: “I wasn’t aware that Pakistan could qualify, until Mark Williams told me during our match. We didn’t do well in the first two matches but Vinnie has really improved as the week has gone on and I’m proud of him. He played a good frame against Mark Williams today which proved vital in the end. This event has been fantastic experience for him.
“Pakistan are unlucky not to go through because they’ve had a great tournament with two very good players. But I’m delighted we’ve made it ahead of them.”
Belgium stormed into the quarter-finals with a 3-2 victory over Scotland, meaning they won all five of their group games.
Rising star Luca Brecel and amateur Tomasz Skalski topped Group B and will now face India in the last eight. Scotland finished second to earn a match with China A.
World number 44 Brecel said: “It’s fantastic to beat Scotland and to win all five group games. It’s a different pressure here. I missed a frame-ball red today, which I would never usually miss if I was just playing for myself. We have reached our goal now in getting to the quarter-finals so we will be more relaxed.”
Skalski added: “It gives me a lot of confidence to play with Luca because I know he’s going to win his frames. I have played above my level in most of the matches.”
Scotland’s defeat meant their fate rested in Brazil’s hands, but John Higgins and Stephen Maguire were relieved to see that Brazil had lost 5-0 to Hong Kong.
“We’re lucky to get through because we had to rely on Hong Kong,” admitted four-time World Champion Higgins. “It will be a very difficult against China tomorrow.”
Ding Junhui and Xiao Guodong of host nation China also won all five matches in Group A, culminating in a 3-2 defeat of Malta today. India’s Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta secured second spot with a 4-1 win over Singapore.
Advani said: “When we saw the draw we felt we had a good chance to qualify, so I’m glad we’ve lived up to that expectation. Aditya has played better than me so far but there is no ego between us, we work as a team and I just need to pull up my socks.
“We are discussing the games, sharing ideas and giving each other confidence. Now we’re at the business end of the tournament, representing India, and this is what we play for.”
Saturday’s quarter-final line-up:
1pm local time
China A v Scotland
India v Belgium
7.30pm local time
Australia v China B
Wales v Thailand