Jamie Clarke pulled off a shock 6-4 defeat of world number 17 Joe Perry to move one win from tour survival and the Crucible at Betfred World Championship qualifying in Sheffield.
The Welshman suffered opening round losses in his first nine tournaments this season, to leave his place on the circuit hanging in the balance. However, qualification for the Crucible this year comes with the added bonus of a fresh two-year tour card for any player outside of the world’s top 64.
World number 89 Clarke will now face Thailand’s Sunny Akani over the best of 19-frames to qualify for the final stages. Today’s opponent Perry, the highest seed in the qualifiers, will leave Sheffield bitterly disappointed to miss out on the Theatre of Dreams for the first time since 2017.
There was never more than a frame in this afternoon’s keenly contested clash, until the players found themselves locked together at 4-4. From that stage, 25-year-old Clarke made a decisive burst, compiling breaks of 66 and 72 to get himself over the line.
“In the past on TV, I’ve wilted and never played that well. It was really nice to show I can play under pressure in the last few frames,” said Clarke. “Before I went out there, it sounds a bit cheesy, but I was visualising being 5-4 up or 5-5. My whole body was shaking and I was just trying to handle the pressure. It was fantastic and I’m very proud.
“I think I’ll enjoy the last round. I’m not expected to get through. My bag was packed before this match, I was ready to shoot off. I was under no pressure, I felt great at the end and that I could handle the pressure.”
Northern Ireland’s Jordan Brown all but guaranteed his tour survival with a thrilling 6-5 defeat of Iranian Hossein Vafaei. Up next he’ll face Ryan Day, who beat Barry Pinches 6-4 today.
In this afternoon’s encounter, Brown and Vafaei were level at 3-3, when the game sparked into top gear. Vafaei composed consecutive century runs of 133 and 109 to move a frame from victory at 5-3.
However, Brown dug deep to keep his dreams of qualification alive. Contributions of 109, 51 and 73 saw him turn the match on its head and dramatically win 6-5.
Mark King emerged a 6-3 winner over 1997 World Champion Ken Doherty to seal his place at Judgement Day.
King hasn’t appeared at the final stages of the World Championship since 2013. He will now face Ian Burns for a spot at the Crucible.
Defeat for Doherty means that he loses his tour card, after dropping out of the world’s top 64. Despite the loss, the six-time ranking event winner remains determined to continue plying his trade and hasn’t abandoned his ambitions of returning to the Crucible.
Doherty said: “You always want to play at Sheffield. That is the big one. It is such a special place. It is very disappointing that I’m not going to be there. I’ve had a lot of great years there. Who knows, maybe I’ve played my last time there, but I haven’t given up hope.”
Anthony McGill produced a blistering display to dispatch Welshman Jak Jones 6-1. Scotland’s former Crucible quarter-finalist McGill fired in breaks of 123, 83, 61, 62 and 71 to storm to a comfortable win.
Martin Gould battled back from 3-0 down to beat Chris Wakelin 6-4, while 2006 World Champion Graeme Dott thrashed David Grace 6-0.