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John Higgins and Barry Hawkins qualified for the World Open

John Higgins and Barry Hawkins qualified for the World Open in an exciting final day of action at the Guild Hall in Preston on Wednesday.

Higgins and Hawkins weren’t troubled much, with the latter whitewashing David John 5-0 courtesy of runs of 129, 66, and 54.

World number two Higgins then comfortably overcame veteran Joe Swail 5-2 to reach the last 64 in Yushan next month.

However, several of the other fixtures dramatically went the distance as the players vied for the final places available in the Chinese ranking event.

England’s Allan Taylor secured an unlikely triumph as he launched an incredible comeback from 4-0 down against German Masters champion Anthony Hamilton to prevail in a decider.

Taylor, known as the Albino Assassin, appeared to be heading for a heavy defeat but constructed a flurry of half century breaks to stun the Sheriff.

Iran’s Hossein Vafaei Ayouri was similarly impressive as he fought back from 3-0 behind to deny rookie Ashley Hugill 5-4.

Hugill also led 4-1 but Vafaei scored breaks of 93, 71, and 69 as he reeled off the last four frames for a terrific turnaround.

Meanwhile, Jack Lisowski and Eden Sharav were also victorious in tense nine-frame showdowns.

Scotland’s Sharav won the last three frames to deny Rory McLeod while Lisowski held off Xu Si to continue his strong start to the season.

Lisowski, a talented 26 year-old who demonstrated much early promise but has so far failed to deliver during his career, made it a hat-trick of successes in Preston over the last week to ease the pressure on his recent slide down the rankings.

Elsewhere, up-and-coming Swiss youngster Alexander Ursenbacher secured his third triumph at the Guild Hall as well as he edged Liam Highfield 5-3.

The European Under-21 champion looks a completely different and matured competitor compared to his initial stint on the circuit between 2013 and 2015.

In some of the other encounters, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh compiled a qualifying tournament high break of 138 as he dispatched of Fang Xiongman 5-1.

That was the same margin for glory as former ranking event finalists David Gilbert and Michael Holt earned their spots in the first round proper after beating Rhys Clark and Billy Joe Castle respectively.

Finally, Matthew Selt, Ben Woollaston, Mark Joyce, and Chen Zhe recorded wins to wrap up August’s qualifying leg.

Next stop on the calendar will be the lucrative China Championship, the second ranking event of the campaign getting under way next Wednesday in Guangzhou.

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