Mark Allen produced a scintillating performance in the China Open first round to put himself back into the top 16 in the provisional Race to the Crucible standings.
The Northern Irishman had been in danger of being the first Masters champion forced to qualify for the World Championship when he slipped out of the elite bracket last month, but a terrific 6-1 defeat of Noppon Saengkham on the opening day in Beijing ensures that his Sheffield fate remains in his own hands.
Allen showed few signs of the pressure he must have been under with so much attention being made concerning his plummet down the rankings in the second half of this season.
The 32 year-old compiled breaks of 138, 105, 102, 98, 68, and 50 in a devastating display of power scoring that sent him surging into the last 32, where the £11,000 he will earn will be enough to see him return to the top 16 – for now at least.
Allen is still not guaranteed to stay in that position, though, as a deep run for any number of players all the way down to 60th in the world rankings could result in another change.
However, the three-time ranking event champion will know that if he continues to show the kind of form he mustered on Monday, he’ll be able to advance further in the lucrative, revamped tournament that now boasts a total prize fund of a whopping £1 million.
What is positive news for Allen counts as a desperate tale for Ryan Day as the Welshman, who failed to qualify for the penultimate ranking event of the season, is the unfortunate player who drops out of the top 16.
Day might have emerged with a brace of ranking event titles in what has been the best season of his career but both of his triumphs came in events with small jackpots, meaning his rise up the rankings hasn’t been as dramatic as, say, Luca Brecel’s for winning the China Championship.
It means the 38 year-old must contend the dreaded World Championship qualifiers, with three wins now required if he’s to be among the contenders for the sport’s holy grail this term.
Elsewhere on day one at the Olympic Sports Center, Jack Lisowski hammered Anthony Hamilton 6-1 with breaks of 114, 73, 72, 62, 56, and 52 while Liang Wenbo was among a group of four Chinese players who won their heldover preliminary fixtures.
Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby, and Ding Junhui will also begin their attempts to land the £225,000 top prize next Sunday.