Ten players have now secured spots in the second stage of the competition in Milton Keynes.
David Gilbert was made to work hard but eventually came through as the Group 21 winner in the Championship League on Thursday – courtesy of his highest break of the day.
The Englishman’s one win and two draws proved enough to squeak past China’s Lu Ning by the narrowest of margins.
A break of 98 in Gilbert’s opening 3-1 victory over Irish newcomer Aaron Hill was key to his eventual progression beyond the opening round-robin phase.
After a 2-2 tie with Xu Si, Gilbert headed into his bout with Lu all-square on four points each.
The latter, who had also shared his four frames with Xu before beating European under-21 champion Hill, established a 2-1 advantage – meaning the outcome came down to the final frame.
Gilbert crucially took it with a break of 77, leaving the “Angry Farmer” on the same number on points as Lu, as well as the exact same frame difference.
However, that early run of 98 for Gilbert was decisive, as the highest break of the day between the pair was used in order to separate them.
🗣️ “My attitude was terrible today, I need to have a word with myself!”
— Championship League Snooker (@CLSnooker) September 17, 2020
Meanwhile, it was more straightforward in Group 10, as Zhao Xintong won his first two encounters against Oliver Brown and Nigel Bond to comfortably advance.
Previously always an invitational event, the third edition of the Championship League in 2020 has been opened up to every professional player and will for the first time carry ranking points.
A total of 128 players will cue up in a unique format which incorporates a round-robin as well as short encounters that will last only four frames.
Because of the vastly increased field, this edition is set to take place over three separate weeks on the snooker calendar.
The first two weeks are effectively qualifiers for the third and final stint of action in late October that will ultimately provide the champion.
There are 32 groups at the outset comprising four players in each, with the 32 winners following the mini-league phase advancing to the second stage.
The first 16 groups will be contested this week, while the remaining 16 groups from phase one will undertake their fixtures at the end of September and into October.
Entering the fray on Friday are Stuart Bingham and Xiao Guoding, with coverage continuing on Matchroom.Live and FreeSports.
Click here to view the full draw (Times: CET)
Featured photo credit: WST