Preview: Day-8 World Championship Qualifying
Fergal O'Brien has qualified for the World Championship for the first time in seven years after a marathon 10-9 victory over David Gilbert on Wednesday. Fergal O'Brien won the longest frame in pro snooker history.
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.''
The Irishman's resolve and never-say-die attitude is well documented but once again plaudits must go his way as he lives up to his nickname of the ''Ferginator''. To his delight, he'll be back at the Crucible this season and there'll be few seeds who'll wish to get the former ranking event winner's name in Thursday's draw.
Meanwhile, on a busy final day of action in Sheffield, former world champions Peter Ebdon and Graeme Dott both ensured their returns to the scene of their most famous triumphs. Peter Ebdon beat Michael Holt 10-9 while Graeme Dott beat Jamie Jones 10-8.
Two-time champion Mark Williams crashed out, though, in a 10-7 loss to Englishman Stuart Carrington.
Williams, who narrowly missed out on an automatic berth when he reached the final of the China Open earlier in April, rode his luck in the first two preliminary rounds but couldn't muster another fight back as Carrington booked a World Championship spot for only the second time in his career.
It'll be huge disappointment for the Welshman, who must have felt confident of a strong showing given his form in Beijing, but it just goes to underline the cut-throat nature of the qualifiers.
Someone else who will testify to that will be Michael Holt, who threw away a mountain of golden opportunities before being felled on the final black against Ebdon.
Holt, who battled strongly form 6-3 down, had chances to prevail 10-8 and again in the decider, but watched in agony as the 2002 world champion completed a marvellous clearance from blue to black to prevail.
Elsewhere, there will be five debutants at the Crucible this year.
Gary Wilson was the first to get his name thrown into the hat after a comprehensive 10-3 triumph over a hapless Michael White.
Fellow Englishman David Grace also managed a 10-3 win over Thai Akani Songsermsawad and will be a popular qualifier after all the good efforts he puts into promoting the amateur game in his hometown of Leeds and around the country.
However, Thailand has got a player in the last 32 as Noppon Saengkham edged Lee Walker in another close tie 10-8.
Talented young Chinese duo Zhou Yuelong and Yan Bingtao, winners together in the 2015 World Cup, make up the selection of newbies in this year's edition after contrasting successes over Ben Woollaston and Alexander Ursenbacher respectively.
Zhou Yuelong and Yan Bingtao beat Ben Woollaston 10-9 , Alexander Ursenbacher 10-4 respectively.
Other notable names to advance were Stephen Maguire and Luca Brecel, two players who few will again wish to draw in the first round proper.
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. Whereas Luca Brecel beat Dominic Dale 10-5 .
Martin Gould is through to the final stages for the eighth time thanks to a 10-7 win over Yu Delu. His top runs were 136 and 129.
Tom Ford denied Iranian Hossein Vafaei Ayouri a Crucible debut with a 10-8 scoreline, while Xiao Guodong hammered Northern Ireland Open champion Mark King 10-4 with a top run of 128.
Rory McLeod defeated Hammad Miah for a 10-7 victory.