Former world champion Ken Doherty moved into the penultimate round of the World Championship qualifiers with a hard-fought 10-8 victory over Josh Boileau on Friday.
The Irishman, king of the Crucible 21 years ago, looked in complete control when he led his countryman 8-4 but Boileau made a valiant effort to stay in the contest and won three frames on the spin to reduce his arrears to just one.
With the next couple of frames shared, Doherty just about avoided the decider with a timely clearance of 71 – only his third break above 50 in the entire match – finally taking him past the winning post.
The defeat for Boileau consigns him to relegation from the Main Tour after a miserable two years that provided the former European under-21 amateur champion with only a handful of wins and hardly any prize money to show for his efforts.
Boileau took to social media after the loss to confirm that he won’t be going to Q School this year, instead deciding to take a year away to try and save up money for another onslaught at the big-time in the future.
For Doherty, the 48 year-old progresses to the second qualifying round to face Gerard Greene, who himself withstood a late comeback from Mark King to upset the Englishman in a dramatic decider.
Also in the same mini-bracket are two-time former runner-up Matthew Stevens and young Chinese talent Yuan Sijun, who caused a bit of a shock by overcoming Doherty’s fellow Dubliner Fergal O’Brien 10-5.
Meanwhile, one of the standout results of the third day of action at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield saw amateur Adam Stefanow surprise Gary Wilson 10-8.
Poland’s Stefanow gained an invite to compete in this year’s edition on the back of his run in the recent WSF Championship in Malta.
Defeat for the 24 year-old in the final of that newly launched amateur competition denied Stefanow professional status for next season and he has hinted that he might step away from the game.
That would clearly be a shame as he obviously has a lot to offer, demonstrated by his emergence against a tough opponent in Wilson to maintain his hopes of becoming the first amateur player to reach the Crucible.
Twelve months ago, Alexander Ursenbacher almost achieved that feat only to be denied at the last hurdle but the Swiss star couldn’t repeat that performance this time around after suffering a 10-8 defeat to Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.
The remaining results went true to form with Yan Bingtao beginning his campaign well with a 10-7 triumph against another teenage hotshot in Jackson Page.
Yan, the runner-up in the Northern Ireland Open this season when he almost broke the record of becoming the youngest player to win a ranking title, is a dark horse of some to not only qualify, but to go far in the main event this year too.
Elsewhere, David Gilbert edged Billy Joe Castle 10-8 with countrymen Chris Wakelin and Alfie Burden joining him in the last 80.
Burden’s 10-6 success against Jamie Curtis-Barrett was particularly important as it provisionally puts him into a position to regain his pro ticket for next season.
The top eight players on the one-year ranking list who are not already inside the top 64 in the world rankings will be offered a fresh two-year card, with Burden moving into seventh place currently.
Norway’s Kurt Maflin was the day’s other winner as he beat Hamza Akbar 10-7.
Several other fixtures reached the halfway points of their encounters with former Crucible competitors Tom Ford, Jimmy Robertson, and Sam Baird all enjoying significant leads overnight.
Former Masters semi-finalist Jamie Cope holds a 5-4 advantage against Hossein Vafaei while Paul Hunter Classic champion Michael White is also in a tough tie as he trails Niu Zhuang by the same margin.
On Saturday, the first qualifying round will reach its climax with the likes of Stephen Maguire, Ryan Day, and Peter Ebdon entering the fray.