Ding Junhui avoided a shock defeat in the final qualifying round of the Betfred World Championship as he came from 7-4 down to beat David Lilley 10-7 and secure his place at the Crucible.
A loss of form has seen China’s Ding drop out of the world’s top 16 – he has not reached the final of a ranking event since landing his third UK Championship crown in 2019. But the 35-year-old remains a class act and will be among the names the top 16 seeds want to avoid when the draw for the first round proper is made on Thursday at 11am.
Asia’s greatest ever player, Ding is through to the Crucible for the 16th consecutive occasion. The last time he had to come through the qualifying rounds, in 2016, he enjoyed his best run, reaching the final before losing to Mark Selby.
Ding started today’s match with a break of 137, but Lilley – who was seeking a Crucible debut – then took control as he compiled runs of 61, 60, 68, 56, 85, 54, 64 and 71 to go 7-4 ahead. Switching the momentum, Ding won the last six consecutive frames with breaks of 59, 62, 76 and 56.
“At 7-4 down I felt I couldn’t pot a ball,” said 14-time ranking event winner Ding. “He was playing very well. When I got back to 7-7 he started making mistakes. I tried to play better safety to keep him off the table. I am playing much better now than I was before Christmas. It will take time, but I believe I can find my best form again.”
Another former UK Champion, Stephen Maguire, also booked his place in the last 32 with a hard fought 10-7 success over Zhou Yuelong. Glasgow’s Maguire trailed 3-1 in the early stages but recovered to win with a top run of 137.
“It was a dog fight from start to finish,” said six-time ranking event winner Maguire, now set for his 19th consecutive Crucible appearance. “I was gone. In the last frame, I was perfect in the balls three or four times and I kept seeing gravestones and skulls. It’s hard – snooker players understand what it’s like. You are out there trying not to lose, when you should just be trying to win. I would rather be in the top 16, back at home watching Judgement Day.”
Ashley Hugill earned a Crucible debut with a 10-7 win over Joe O’Connor and will become the 221st player to play at the famous venue. World number 77 Hugill, from York, made top breaks of 112 and 107 and secured the result in the 17th frame with a double the length of the table on the final black.
“I just kept telling myself that I’m not losing today,” said Hugill, who practises with Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong. “When I walk into the arena I will try to savour it and take it all in.”
Michael White will become the second amateur to play at the Crucible – after James Cahill in 2019 – thanks to a 10-8 victory over Jordan Brown. Welshman White, a two-time ranking event winner, dropped off the pro tour in 2020 but this run in Sheffield has guaranteed a new two-year tour card from the start of next season.
From 7-6 down, White won three frames in a row with breaks of 66, 71 and 87. Brown won frame 17 but his opponent clinched victory in the 18th with an excellent long pot on the final black.
“I thought I’d blown it because I missed so many chances in the last frame. That’s what the World Championship does to you,” said White, a quarter-finalist in Sheffield on his 2013 debut. “Jordan was the better player and I was fighting all day to stick with him. I crawled over the line in the end. It means so much to me. I have been working so hard and I feel I deserve this. I’ve had issues away from the table but that is behind me now and I have good people around me.”
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh came into the qualifying rounds uncertain of keeping his place on the tour, but has passed the test with flying colours and secured his Crucible spot with a 10-7 defeat of Matthew Selt.
Thailand’s Un-Nooh trailed 2-0 early in the match but hit back to win with top breaks of 92, 77, 145, 72, 65, 74, 101 and 116.
“I am so relieved, because I have never beaten Matthew before,” said former Shoot Out champion Un-Nooh, through to the final stages for the fourth time. “He played well and I can’t believe I performed that well. If I had lost my first match here I would have been off the tour so that was so important for me. I had to keep my self belief and fight for my family.”
Jamie Jones won the first seven frames against Tom Ford with a top run of 100 and eventually sealed victory 10-5. “The first to ten matches seem to suit my game more, I feel like I can impose myself,” said Welshman Jones, who reached the quarter-finals on his Crucible debut ten years ago. “I just made it tough for Tom all day today. I don’t feel nervous in this tournament, I get more nervous in the smaller events and I’m not sure why. I’d love to play Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible.”
Scotland’s Scott Donaldson scored an emphatic 10-1 victory over Allan Taylor with a top break of 132 while China’s Lyu Haotian top scored with 81 in a 10-4 defeat of Dominic Dale.
Judgement Day continues on Wednesday with eight more matches, watch it live on Facebook and YouTube