Veterans Fergal O’Brien and Nigel Bond have lost their tour cards after defeats in the World Snooker Championship qualifiers.
O’Brien exited in a marathon 6-5 encounter with teenage record-breaker Liam James Davies.
The remarkable victory for the 15 year-old from Wales means the amateur – the youngest winner of a World Championship match – is just two victories away from a dream debut at the Crucible Theatre.
For O’Brien, though, it could be the end of the road for a professional career that has spanned more than three decades.
The Irishman, a British Open champion in 1999 and a Masters finalist two years later, probably would have survived with victory and the £10,000 prize money that came with it.
Although ranked outside the crucial world’s top 64 on the official two-year list that guarantees safety, O’Brien was sitting pretty in the one-year rankings ahead of the preliminaries at the English Institute of Sport.
The top four not already qualified from that route can receive a fresh two-year card, like how the Dubliner avoided relegation two years ago.
But with so many lower-ranked players seizing the moment in the World Championship qualifiers so far, the situation emphatically changed.
Former World Championship runner-up Bond, meanwhile, needed even more results to give himself a chance of extending an amazing professional stint that began all the way back in 1989.
But the 1996 British Open champion was comprehensively beaten 6-1 by Germany’s Lukas Kleckers in Sheffield.
To prolong their careers at the top, Fergal O’Brien and and Nigel Bond will now have to entertain the idea of entering Q School.
Martin O’Donnell and Sunny Akani have been consigned to the same fate after respective losses against Michael White and Zhang Jiankang.
Elsewhere, triumphs for Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Michael Holt in the second qualifying round mean that the outlook for that pair looks more promising.
Un-Nooh has risen to no.52 in the provisional end-of-season standings after beating Andrew Pagett, while Holt is just inside the cut-off point at no.63 following a success over Hammad Miah.
Meanwhile, Joe O’Connor, Tian Pengfei, Zhang Anda, Ashley Hugill, and David Lilley all advanced to the penultimate round of the tense qualifiers.
The tour survival situation is constantly changing, and there’s a useful blog over at the WPBSA website to keep track of the live standings.
On Friday, the action continues with the likes of Ken Doherty and Matthew Stevens looking for potentially vital victories.
Friday’s Order of Play
(Apr 8, 9:30am)
Andrew Higginson vs Daniel Wells
Cao Yupeng vs Sanderson Lam
Mark Davis vs James Cahill
Steven Hallworth vs Yuan Sijun
(Apr 8, 2:30pm)
Gao Yang vs Dylan Emery
Matthew Stevens vs Gerard Greene
Ashley Carty vs Jackson Page
David Grace vs Iulian Boiko
(Apr 8, 7:30pm)
Ken Doherty vs Rory McLeod
Elliot Slessor vs Ian Burns
Oliver Lines vs Peter Devlin
Chris Wakelin vs Jamie Wilson
Live coverage of the World Snooker Championship qualifiers will be available across Europe on the Eurosport App.
Viewer in all other territories – other than China – will have the option to subscribe to Matchroom.Live.
Featured photo credit: WST