It was an exciting end to the fifth group this week as the ninth and tenth players advanced to the last 32.
Zhao Xintong won Group K of the new WST Pro Series on Friday after a tight finish to the round-robin in Milton Keynes.
The Chinese 24 year-old won five out of his seven fixtures to finish in first place on 15 points ahead of the chasing pack.
A dramatic conclusion saw veteran Dominic Dale snatch second place, and with it qualification for the next group phase as well.
A two-time former ranking event winner, Dale’s last-gasp break of 73 against Si Jiahui saw him leapfrog Andy Hicks in the league table after the latter had earlier lost by the same 2-1 margin to Lee Walker.
Hicks and Dale both finished on 12 points with an identical frame-difference record, but the Welshman won their head-to-head match 2-1 at the very start of the day to squeeze through.
Anthony McGill and Mark King were among the other notable players to miss out on progressing further in the competition.
After negotiating Group K of the WST Pro Series, Zhao and Dale will feature in the second group stage later this season.
They join the likes of Kyren Wilson, Stuart Bingham, and Joe Perry who have already made it through in the last few days.
What is the WST Pro Series?
The format for the WST Pro Series is quite similar to that which was unitilised for two out of the three editions of the Championship League that were staged during 2020.
There are 16 groups comprising eight players in each, with a round-robin phase determining the top two who will advance to the second group stage.
Eight groups in the first stage take place this week, while the remaining eight groups are in March.
The 32 players who progress to stage two will be split into four more groups of eight, with the top two again moving forward from each to contest the final group.
That remaining set of eight players will subsequently battle it out in the same fashion to become the overall champion.
There is a total tournament prize fund of £420,500, broken down in various ways through the three group stages.
The winner, however, stands to collect at least £30,000 in an event that incorporates a sprint best-of-three frames format throughout.
After securing progression from 𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙣𝙤𝙬𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚…
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) January 22, 2021
On Saturday, Group A takes place with Shaun Murphy, Michael Holt, Ken Doherty, Alan McManus, Xu Si, Louis Heathcote, Fraser Patrick, and French amateur Brian Ochoiski involved.
Live coverage will be available via an account with several online bookmakers, as well as around the world through the Matchroom.Live streaming service.
Click here to view the full draw (Times in CET)
Featured photo credit: WST