Easily the most exciting match and only one of two to go down to a decider was the match between Welsh no.2 Matthew Stevens and Ireland's Fergal O'Brien. Matthew has had a consistant season so far already and is back up to 18th in the world rankings and was looking for a place at the Crucible after missing out last year. Matthew won the first session 5-4 with a top break of 78 but Fergal scored the best in the second session with breaks of 100, 70, 85 and 82 to but him 9-8 ahead. Matthew then took the match into a decider with a wonderful 129 but after a safety battle in the 19th he found himself 59-1 down. Matthew had a chance to clear but lost position on the final black but after a brief safety exchange he potted the black for victory. Matthew will be thrilled to make it to the Crucible and will be looking to make it into the top 16 before the season is over.
Photos - On Q Promotions
Another Welsh player through is On Q Promotions player Andrew Pagett. He had to win three matches to qualify for the final round including a 10-9 win over Nigel Bond. He faced Welsh open finalist Andrew Higginson. It was going to be a tough match on paper for Pagett but Higginson never really pushed on after leading 6-4. Pagett came back and won six in a row with breaks of 79, 60, 62 and 64 to qualify for his first ever ranking event venue. The Crucible good place to start! Thanks to this run he should be safe from tour relegation also. The other Crucible debutant through is another On Q player; Jimmy Robertson. He faced Ken Doherty who after the first session led 6-3 with the help of breaks of 109 and 102. And just like with Andrew earlier, Jimmy hit straight back in the evening by winning seven frames in a row with top runs of 56, 65 and 58. The 24-year old from Hastings had a mediocre season up until now and will be looking forward to showing his stuff on the world's biggest stage next month.
Six times world champion Steve Davis was denied a 31st appearance at the Crucible though by MIUS Cup champion Stephen Lee. Stephen has been looking back to almost his best form this year by making several venues and winning EPTC4, but nobody expected him to dominate this match so much as he stormed 8-0 ahead with breaks of 55, 55, 70, 56 and 98. Steve hit back to 8-2 behind but it was not to be as breaks of 105 and 84 won Stephen the match 10-2 and a return to the Crucible. It seemed strange that Steve lost so heavily after hitting three centuries in his previous round win over Jack Lisowski but it finishes off a bad season for Davis who seems himself way out of the top 32.
Also through to the Crucible for the first time since 2004 is one of my favourite players; Welshman Dominic Dale. The former Grand Prix and Shanghai Masters champion has had a brilliant season so far winning PTC6 and getting back into the top 32 but he went one step further by beating Michael Holt 10-6. As with many other matches in the final round Dominic saw himself behind after the first session trailing 6-3. But he came back strong in the closing stages with top breaks of 108 and 101. Dominic is the only player to have won two or more ranking events and not reached the top 16 so hopefully he will push on from here and keep challenging the top players.
Special mentions also go to Judd Trump who made it through 10-4 against first round qualifier Dave Gilbert to book his first appearance at the Crucible since 2007 and fan favourite Martin Gould who nearly beat eventual champion Neil Robertson in last years tournament, beat Robert Milkins 10-6 to book his third successive Crucible appearance.
The final stages of the championship starts on April 16th and lasts all the way through to May 2nd. It will have a different feel to it this year with veterans Davis and Doherty missing, but I for one will be looking forward to it with great expectations. But first we have the PTC finals next week and the China Open the week after that. Never a days rest for Snooker players at the moment!
Mark Davis 5-10 Rory McLeod
Joe Perry 10-6 Liu Song
Liang Wenbo 7-10 Jamie Burnett
Mark King 10-5 Mike Dunn
Dominic Dale 10-6 Michael Holt
Martin Gould 10-6 Robert Milkins
Ryan Day 10-7 Liu Chuang
Judd Trump 10-4 David Gilbert
Matthew Stevens 10-9 Fergal O`Brien
Marcus Campbell 10-6 Matthew Selt
Barry Hawkins 10-5 Anthony Hamilton
Stephen Lee 10-2 Steve Davis
Gerard Greene 9-10 Dave Harold
Stuart Bingham 10-2 Alan McManus
Andrew Higginson 6-10 Andrew Pagett
Ken Doherty 6-10 Jimmy Robertson