Ronnie O’Sullivan sealed his spot in the main stages of the 2017 China Open with a 5-3 victory over James Cahill in qualifying on Thursday, while Daniel Wells pulled off a shock win over Marco Fu in Preston.
Fresh from his record-breaking seventh triumph at The Masters last Sunday, O’Sullivan staved off a tricky test from the Blackpool youngster to confirm his place in the lucrative world ranking event in March.
It was Cahill who made a bright start, taking the opening frame with a break of 70, before O’Sullivan hit back with a 52 en route to levelling up.
O’Sullivan then thrilled a bumper crowd at The Preston Guild Hall with a stunning clearance of 107 to lead, but only for Cahill to edge frame four and restore parity at the interval.
The 21-year-old was left to rue a costly missed brown as O’Sullivan capitalised to make it 3-2, though he recovered well to seal frame six and get back on level terms.
O’Sullivan, though, dominated frames seven and eight to get over the line and ensure his first appearance in the China Open for five years.
Elsewhere, world number 67 Wells defied a high break of 137 from an in-form Fu to close out a shock 5-3 victory in a high quality affair.
Wells had opened up a 3-1 lead with top breaks of 56 and 76, before Fu hit back with breaks of 64 and 137 to square it up, only for the Welshman to reel off the next two frames for victory.
World number two Stuart Bingham held his nerve to close out a narrow 5-4 victory over Thailand’s James Wattana with a high break of 125.
Former Masters finalist Fergal O’Brien recovered from 3-1 down with four consecutive frames to overcome Nigel Bond, while Matthew Selt was ruthless in whitewashing Craig Steadman 5-0.
Former UK Championship semi-finalist David Grace suffered a shock 5-2 defeat at the hands of practice partner Sanderson Lam, while the likes of Kyren Wilson, Ricky Walden and Mark King all came through unscathed.
China Open Qualifiers 2017 Results
Thursday January 26
Chris Wakelin 2-5 Scott Donaldson
Robert Milkins 5-3 Mei Xi Wen
Tom Ford 3-5 Noppon Saengkham
Kyren Wilson 5-2 Michael Georgiou
Xiao Guodong 5-3 John J Astley
Mark King 5-1 Marc J Davis
Stuart Bingham 5-4 James Wattana
David Grace 2-5 Sanderson Lam
Mark Joyce 5-4 Mitchell Mann
Ryan Day 2-5 Fraser Patrick
Fergal O’Brien 5-3 Nigel Bond
Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-3 James Cahill
Zhou Yuelong v Michael Wild
Matthew Selt 5-0 Craig Steadman
Marco Fu 3-5 Daniel Wells
Ricky Walden 5-1 Zhang Yong