Sam Craigie made a tremendous break of 89 in the deciding frame to beat Zhao Xintong 10-9 in the final qualifying round of the Betfred World Championship.
In the only ‘Judgement Day’ match to go to a decider, Newcastle’s 27-year-old Craigie rose to the occasion to beat Zhao and earn a Crucible debut, getting his name into the draw for the last 32. The main event starts on Saturday.
China’s highly-rated Zhao had leads of 3-0, 5-2 and 7-5, but Craigie battled hard and made breaks of 126, 50, 60, 106, 50 and 117. Then in the last frame he took his chance with an excellent match-winning contribution.
“I’m over the moon and glad about the way I held myself together,” said Craigie. “I have only had my B and C game in all three matches this week. But I finished it off well tonight, I just tied to focus on the balls going into the pockets. Recently I have done a few things differently and it has paid off. Until I got to this round I didn’t think I was that bothered about getting to the Crucible. Then last night I was struggling to sleep, thinking too far ahead. I had to reset myself for today.”
Igor Figueiredo’s dream of becoming the first player from South America to make it to the Crucible came to an end as the Brazilian ace lost 10-7 to Mark Joyce. Walsall’s 37-year-old Joyce booked his debut, 15 years after turning pro. A top break of 135 gave Joyce a 9-4 lead, and he eventually clinched the result in frame 17 after losing three in a row.
“I have finally got there,” said Joyce. “I have got to the final round before and I didn’t believe in myself. I’m a different player now. When Igor was coming back at me at the end, in 15 years on the tour that was the worst I have felt. My timing was gone, the white wasn’t going where I wanted it to go and that makes you look silly. He fancied the job at 9-7. But I got over the line and hopefully now I can go to the Crucible and enjoy it.”
Ali Carter and Stuart Bingham will be among the names that the top 16 seeds want to avoid when the draw for the first round proper takes place on Thursday at 11am.
Bingham, the 2015 Crucible king, had to go through the qualifiers for the first time since 2011, but safety negotiated 10-5 a win over Luca Brecel. From 3-1 down, Bingham took nine of the last 11 frames with top breaks of 140, 108, 140, 55, 63, 74, 67 and 57.
“The last qualifying round is a horrible match,” said Bingham. “I was here yesterday watching some of the matches come off and I saw one player in tears having lost, while the winner was elated. I am just so happy to get through and finish the season at the Crucible. These two matches have got me really sharp. My break building is there and my safety is good. I’ll be heading home with a big smile on my face. Whoever draws me is going to have a tough game.”
Carter, who was runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the 2008 and 2012 finals, scored a 10-4 victory over Alexander Ursenbacher with a top break of 139. “We all want to finish the season at the Crucible,” said the Captain. “I was solid all day, my temperament was good. It’s a relief to get through.”
Chris Wakelin finished a superb week on a high by beating Xiao Guodong 10-7 with top runs of 100 and 120. Wakelin was in danger of relegation when he arrived in Sheffield, but after coming from 5-3 down to beat Lei Peifan 6-5 in his opening match, he went on to knock out Matthew Stevens and then Xiao. The Nuneaton cueman can now look forward to a second trip to the Crucible, having lost 10-9 to Judd Trump on his debut in 2018.
“When I came here I had to win to stay on the tour and I have never felt pressure like that,” said Wakelin. “Then I beat Matthew with one of best matches I have ever played. I am delighted to have done myself justice because I have not really done that since the last time I got to the Crucible. I have not played well enough and that’s my own fault. I have been in a bad head space and I have had to get that right. Trying to concentrate for seven or eight hours is really not easy and you have to accept that you are going to miss balls and make mistakes.”
Gary Wilson, who reached the semi-finals two years ago, booked his return by beating Steven Hallworth 10-3 with a top break of 131. Wilson has had a poor season by his standards, reaching the last 16 of just one ranking event, but hopes he has turned his form around.
“It has been my worst season ever, just abysmal,” he said. “But I have achieved what I set out to do at the turn of the year. I have been grafting so hard and now I am going there full of confidence.”
Martin Gould top scored with 103 and 100 as he came from 5-2 down to beat Bai Langning 10-5. Ricky Walden earned his first Crucible berth since 2018 as he saw off Ryan Day 10-5 with a top break of 84.
Judgement Day: The 16 winners