Ken Doherty went unbeaten as he topped Group 14 to book his place in the second phase of this year’s Championship League on Monday.
The 1997 World champion was launching his 32nd season on the main tour at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.
And Doherty demonstrated he is still going strong at the age of 51, topping Group 14 with seven points from a possible nine.
The Dubliner, who reached the Final Group in June 2020, endured a difficult start in his opening match against Rory McLeod.
In to take the first frame, he missed a straightforward pink before a poor safety shot enabled his opponent to snatch the lead on the black.
However, Doherty responded brilliantly with a break of 81 while a 44 clearance saw him go 2-1 up on the black, before a further run of 50 sealed victory.
The six-time ranking event winner built on that momentum against teenager amateur Ryan Davies, who held two-time champion Martin Gould to a 2-2 draw in his opener.
He cleared from blue to black to take the first frame, before breaks of 76 and 73 made it two wins from two.
Gould’s subsequent 2-2 draw with McLeod resulted in Doherty securing top spot with a match to spare.
Nevertheless, he retained his unbeaten status by recovering from 2-0 down to earn a point against Gould; going close to recording a maximum break in the final frame before missing the 13th black.
Meanwhile, Group 13 went down to the wire with Oliver Lines eventually prevailing as the winner.
The world number 109 opened with a 2-2 draw against Peter Devlin, before following it up with commanding 3-0 wins over the amateur duo of Luke Pinches and Joshua Thomond.
Lines hit a top break of 93 along the way, meaning Devlin needed to surpass that while recording back-to-back 3-0 victories to overtake him.
The world number 114 successfully reeled off six frames without reply, but ran out of position on 39 during the final frame of his win over Pinches – son of long-time professional Barry – and was forced to settle for second place.
Championship league Snooker 2021 Results
Monday July 26
Oliver Lines 2-2 Peter Devlin
Joshua Thomond 3-0 Luke Pinches
Joshua Thomond 0-3 Peter Devlin
Oliver Lines 3-0 Luke Pinches
Joshua Thomond 0-3 Oliver Lines
Peter Devlin 3-0 Luke Pinches
Martin Gould 2-2 Ryan Davies
Ken Doherty 3-1 Rory McLeod
Ken Doherty 3-0 Ryan Davies
Martin Gould 2-2 Rory McLeod
Rory McLeod 3-1 Ryan Davies
Martin Gould 2-2 Ken Doherty