Robert Milkins must reach the final of the Baic Motor China Open to guarantee himself a place at the Crucible, following a 5-1 thrashing of Michael White today.
Gloucester’s Milkins is through to the quarter-finals in Beijing and must now beat Mark Selby and win one more match to avoid having to qualify for the Betfred World Championship. Stephen Maguire, currently occupying the 16th and last automatic slot, lost 5-3 to Barry Hawkins today so his fate lies in the hands of Milkins.
Breaks of 70, 64, 94 and 62 helped Milkins to a convincing victory over White, who had also harboured hopes of a top 16 seeding.
World number five Hawkins compiled breaks of 76, 87 and 79 in beating Maguire 5-3.
John Higgins triumphed 5-4 in a dramatic finish against Judd Trump. World Grand Prix winner Trump came from 4-2 down to 4-4 and made a 59 in the decider. But Higgins fought back with a run of 39 and then made a superb colours clearance which included brilliant pots on yellow and green.
“Judd didn’t play his best game tonight, but it was looking like I would lose 5-4,” said Higgins, who won his 26th ranking title at the Welsh Open. “He was a bit unlucky in the last frame. I can’t really put my finger on why my form has improved I’m just practising and trying my best, and winning in Wales has given me some confidence.”
Higgins will now meet defending champion Ding Junhui, whose return to form gathered pace as he beat Mark Williams 5-2 with top runs of 68 and 103.
“I think I’m playing with a better mindset, though I can’t guarantee how it will be in the future,” said Ding. “It’s hard to say where your from comes from. I played with confidence today.
“You may well expect me to defend my title but all I want is to play well in my next match. I have to be at the top of my game to win.”
Shaun Murphy’s 5-3 win over Jamie Jones was highlighted by a tremendous 143 total clearance from Murphy in frame three.
World Champion Selby saw off David Gilbert 5-2 with a top break of 65. “I won a big frame to go 4-2 up when it looked like going 3-3,” said Selby, who had soreness in his neck earlier in the week. “The pain has eased off day by day and once I get home I’ll get a bit of treatment before going to Sheffield.”
Gary Wilson cruised to a 5-1 win over Dechawat Poomjaeng to reach his second quarter-final within two months, having reached the same stage of the Welsh Open. He said: “If I can keep this kind of consistency I’ll be happy. Today I didn’t play that well but I ground it out and nicked a few tight frames.”
Kurt Maflin impressed in a 5-1 win over Robin Hull, knocking in runs of 91, 53, 53, 101 and 75.