Former Crucible runner-up Matthew Stevens booked a return to the World Snooker Championship with a nail-biting 10-9 victory over Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien in a match decided on the final black.
Welshman Stevens, who lost to compatriot Mark Williams in the 2000 final and to England’s Shaun Murphy in 2005, was on the brink of going out at the final stage of qualifying when O’Brien built up a 59-1 lead in the deciding frame, aided by a fluked red. With 59 points remaining, Stevens still had a chance and a superb run got him back to 59-53, only for him to run short of position for the black.
He played a smart safety and when O’Brien pushed the black towards the middle of the table Stevens gobbled up the long pot before roaring his delight.
“I still can’t believe I’ve won, I’m at the Crucible,” said 33-year-old Stevens. “I potted a good black under pressure. I feel sorry for Fergal, because I was in that position last year, losing 10-9 in qualifying. But I’ve put a lot of work in and I’m starting to get what I deserve.”
Another Welshman, Ryan Day, won through to the first round proper by knocking out China’s Liu Chuang 10-7.
Bristol’s Judd Trump, who qualified in 2007 as a 17-year-old, will be back at the Crucible next month after a 10-4 success against David Gilbert.
Scotland’s Marcus Campbell also qualified, ousting England’s Matthew Selt 10-6. The Betfred.com World Championship runs from April 16 to May 2.