Reanne Evans caused a sensation by beating Robin Hull 10-8 in the first round of World Championship qualifying at Ponds Forge on Wednesday.
The Englishwoman, a record 11-time women’s world champion, weathered an early barrage of heavy scoring from the Finn to fight back from 4-2 down and go within just two victories of a place at the Crucible.
Evans ended the first session a frame down but proved that she meant business by winning the opening two frames of the evening session to take a lead for the first time at 6-5.
Hull, under pressure to avoid dropping out of the top 64 in the world rankings, responded to twice retake the lead.
But Evans won a tight 16th frame to level at 8-8 before duly collecting the next two for a memorable triumph.
It’s a remarkable achievement for Evans, who earlier this year suffered a surprise defeat to Hong Kong’s Ng On Yee in the semi-finals of the World Women’s Championship in Singapore, but everyone within the game has known of her star credentials for quite a number of years.
In 2015, Evans came within a whisker of beating Ken Doherty at the same stage of qualifying in Sheffield, so the warning signs had been there.
The 31 year-old will play Lee Walker in the penultimate round after the Welshman beat two-time former finalist Matthew Stevens 10-8 in a gruelling battle that finished well past midnight.
In a mostly slow and scrappy affair, Walker established a 6-1 advantage at the end of the first session, which was pulled off ahead of the scheduled nine frames.
Stevens, runner-up in 2000 and 2005, fought back gallantly to level at 7-7 but ultimately left too much to do as he failed to reach the Crucible for the second successive season.
Meanwhile, there were heavy victories for Tom Ford, Xiao Guodong, and Stuart Carrington, who each recorded 10-2 scorelines against their respective opponents.
Northern Ireland Open champion Mark King had a similarly comfortable passage as he dominated Paul Davison for a 10-4 success, while fellow Englishman Chris Wakelin required just one additional frame in overcoming Elliot Slessor 10-5.
It was closer in the remaining contests with Li Hang claiming the last three frames to pip Fraser Patrick in what proved to be the only deciding frame thriller of day one.
Fang Xiongman won a battle of the Chinese contingent when he emerged passed his countryman Zhang Anda 10-7, despite a brace of tons from his opponent.
Andrew Higginson was similarly outscored against Michael Georgiou but managed to survive a late rally from the Cypriot for a 10-8 win.
Finally, Mike Dunn beat Andy Hicks 10-6 to set up a meeting with Li Hang at the second stage.
Nine other ties reached the halfway points in their clashes with quite a number of one-sided affairs in progress.
On Yee struggled to trail Nigel Bond 6-1 overnight while Jamie Jones, Zhou Yuelong, Rhys Clark, Sam Baird, and Alfie Burden have also formed seemingly unassailable leads.
Joe Perry, who only dropped out of the top 16 recently and was therefore forced to attend Ponds Forge, got off to a decent start with a 6-3 advantage against amateur Zack Richardson.
Finally, Ian Preece and Akani Songsermsawad enjoy 5-3 cushions over Ian Burns and Mei Xiwen respectively.
Those matches reach their conclusion on Thursday while the likes of Ricky Walden, Michael White, Dominic Dale, and Irish rookie Josh Boileau enter the fray as well.
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