Qualifying for upcoming ranking events continued at the Preston Guild Hall on Thursday with the first day of the International Championship qualifiers.
Ronnie O’Sullivan, entering the event for the first time in two years, withstood a spirited fight back from James Cahill to deny the 20 year-old 6-4.
The ‘Rocket’ raced into a 5-1 lead with runs of 71, 88 and 74 but was pegged back to just one frame in it before denying his young fellow Englishman the opportunity of a decider.
O’Sullivan has tended to avoid travelling to overseas ranking events in the last number of seasons but had hinted after defeat in the World Championship second round that a busier schedule this term was needed.
Of course, the fact that the tournament in China is one of the most lucrative on the calendar will have been reason for temptation as well.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s Ken Doherty recorded a morale-boosting 6-2 victory over Allan Taylor, knocking in a 138 along the way.
The 1997 world champion has suffered a dramatic slide down the rankings and is in danger of dropping outside the top 64 in the world rankings – where an automatic place on the Main Tour is guaranteed.
Doherty’s fellow Dubliner Fergal O’Brien, who has also suffered a dip having dropped outside the top 50 for the first time since the 1993/94 campaign, managed to advance too.
The 44 year-old took slightly longer, though, needing to return in the evening to finish off a 6-3 triumph over Fraser Patrick.
Elsewhere, there were triumphs for Indian Open champion Anthony McGill, Ricky Walden and Martin Gould.
The latter bounced back from his humiliating 5-0 loss to teenager Yuan Sijun in the Shanghai Masters earlier this month with a routine 6-2 success against Scott Donaldson.
Speaking of Chinese, it was a pretty positive day for the contingent of players from the country which will host the International Championship at the end of next month, albeit several more await their chance in the next couple of days.
Talented youngsters Zhou Yuelong and Zhao Xintong overcame Steven Hallworth and Ben Woollaston respectively, while Wang Yuchen hammered Rory McLeod 6-1.
However, it was a disappointing day for several of the veteran favourites with Jimmy White, Peter Ebdon and Alan McManus all falling at the first hurdle.
2006 world champion Graeme Dott enjoyed a better time of it, thumping David John 6-1 while John’s Welsh compatriot Matthew Stevens inflicted a 6-3 loss on Adam Duffy.
Arguably the performance of the day went to Jimmy Robertson, who in defeating amateur Bradley Jones 6-0 knocked in breaks of 108, 96, 74 and 67.
David Gilbert scored quite heavily too as he hammered Gareth Allen by the same wide margin, with Mark Williams coming from 2-0 down with runs of 126, 68, 66 and a brace of 58 in overturning Alex Borg 6-2.
James Wattana knocked out Dechawat Poomjaeng in an all-Thai battle but countryman Thepchaiya Un-Nooh was downed in a final frame shoot-out by Jak Jones.
The likes of Neil Robertson, Stuart Bingham, Ali Carter and Stephen Maguire enter the fray on Friday.
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