Fergal O’Brien won the longest frame in pro snooker history to beat David Gilbert 10-9 in the final qualifying round of the Betfred World Championship.
The deciding frame took 123 minutes and 41 seconds, smashing the previous record of 100 minutes and 24 seconds set by Alan McManus and Barry Pinches at the 2015 Ruhr Open. In fact tonight’s epic frame lasted 44 seconds longer than Dennis Kimetto took to run the Berlin Marathon in 2014.
None of that will matter to Dublin’s O’Brien as he goes through to the Crucible for the first time since 2010. He came from 6-1 and 9-7 down against Gilbert and finally won the decider at nearly midnight, ending a long safety battle on the colours by potting brown and blue.
“There was so much pressure on that frame,” admitted the world number 45. “I have lost a few times 10-9 in this round and I remember going back to the hotel devastated and just sitting in a daze for hours. I almost didn’t want to get to 9-9 this time in case it happened again. So I’m just delighted to get through to the Crucible – it means everything.”
Hossein Vafaei narrowly missed out on becoming the first Iranian player to make it to the Crucible as he lost 10-8 to Tom Ford.
Vafaei, who won two matches to get this far, led 6-4 and 7-6 tonight but Ford hit back to take four of the last five frames. The Leicester cueman goes into Thursday’s draw when the top 16 seeds will be drawn against the 16 qualifiers.
“It was a struggle, I was happy to get over the line,” said Ford. “I stuck in there and battled away in all three matches. Grinding it out is not my game but I had to do it.”
China’s 19-year-old Zhou Yuelong will be one of five Crucible debutants, alongside Yan Bingtao, Noppon Saengkham, David Grace and Gary Wilson. Zhou edged out Ben Woollaston 10-9 with a top break of 131.
“I’m so happy, every player wants to get to the Crucible because of the history,” said Zhou. “I have been there before to watch Ding Junhui play, it’s a great venue. I would like to play Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round.”
Thailand’s Saengkham came from 6-3 down to beat Lee Walker 10-8 with top breaks of 122 and 134.
Two-time World Champion Mark Williams will miss out on the Crucible this time as he went down 10-7 to Stuart Carrington, whose top break was 104.
Stephen Maguire secured his 14th consecutive trip to snooker’s Theatre of Dreams by beating Li Hang 10-5 with a top break of 131.
Rory McLeod saw off Hammad Miah 10-7 while Graeme Dott came from 8-7 down to beat Jamie Jones 10-8, compiling runs of 86, 57 and 77 in the last three frames.