Ken Doherty continued his strong start to the season by qualifying for the lucrative China Championship on Saturday in Preston.
The Irishman dropped off the Main Tour last season after falling outside the top 64 in the world rankings following a dismal campaign, but received a reprieve from World Snooker in the form of a two-year invitational card.
Doherty has so far taken full advantage of his lifeline, backing up his victory in the Riga Masters qualifying last week with another at the Guild Hall this weekend.
On this occasion, the 1997 world champion won five frames on the trot in an excellent 5-1 defeat of Gary Wilson which included a century break of 102 in the third frame.
Doherty will contest a high-profile last 64 encounter with Shaun Murphy when the tournament resumes at the Chinese main venue in August.
Murphy suffered a somewhat surprising defeat for Riga when he was downed by Luca Brecel on Friday but bounced back well with a 5-2 victory over Zhang Anda – despite a tournament-high run of 138 from his opponent.
The 2005 Crucible king was in stellar form as he reeled off breaks of 109, two 87s, 84, and a 53 in a high-scoring affair.
The majority of the marquee names in action on Saturday progressed through to the calendar’s newest ranking tournament.
Stuart Bingham hammered newcomer Billy Joe Castle 5-0, a flattering scoreline considering four of the frames could have gone either way.
Mark Williams, Stephen Maguire, and Anthony McGill all scored century breaks as they advanced with wins over Jak Jones, Jamie Barrett, and Craig Steadman respectively.
Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen also compiled a ton, a crucial 115 in the sixth frame which gave him control of a contest with Lee Walker in which he had once trailed 2-1.
Allen lost his Riga preliminary encounter and will be fully aware that, after a disappointing last campaign, he needs to rediscover his form if he’s to avoid dropping outside the elite bracket this term.
Former German Masters champion Martin Gould also kick-started his season with a 5-1 triumph over Adam Duffy.
The biggest upset of the day materialised late on when Kyren Wilson suffered a heavy 5-1 loss to Michael Georgiou – the Cypriot with four half-centuries in a one-sided clash.
Chinese teenager Yan Bingtao enjoyed a similar four-frame victory over Wang Yuchen while young countryman Zhou Yuelong fought back superbly from 3-0 down to dispatch of Christopher Keogan 5-3.
Elsewhere, there were triumphs for Mark Joyce, Mike Dunn, Chen Zifan, and Noppon Saengkham – the latter with a deciding frame clincher against Rhys Clark.
The China Championship qualifiers continues on Sunday with the likes of Barry Hawkins and Ali Carter entering the fray.