Jackson Page and Hossein Vafaei secure World Championship debuts as Matthew Stevens completes comeback win
Jackson Page and Hossein Vafaei each secured a dream debut at the 2022 World Snooker Championship after coming through the final day of the qualifiers in Sheffield.
A thrilling climax to the qualifying rounds at the English Institute of Sport on Wednesday saw comebacks and deciding frame drama as the 32-player field for the sport’s show-piece event was finalised.
Three players will make their debut at The Crucible this year after Page and Vafaei joined Ashley Hugill in securing qualification.
20-year-old Welsh star Page clinched his place in Thursday’s First Round draw with a 10-6 victory over former UK Championship semi-finalist David Grace.
Having started out in the First Qualifying Round, world number 90 Page completed his all-important fourth win at the EIS with high breaks of 104, 91, 80 and 116.
Page will be one of six Welsh players to compete at the sport’s spiritual home this year, the most since 1990, having been joined in qualifying on Wednesday by Jamie Clarke and Matthew Stevens.
Michael White and Jamie Jones had already come through Part I of Judgement Day on Tuesday, and the trio completed the feel-good factor around Welsh snooker by joining top 16 seed Mark Williams in the draw.
Stevens pulled off a sensational revival from 4-0 and 5-1 down to defeat fellow two-time world finalist Ali Carter 10-8.
Stevens, who came into the qualifiers at risk of losing his Tour Card, made a nightmare start as Carter coasted to the opening four frames with breaks of 88, 76 and 92.
A break of 100 saw Stevens get off the mark, and though Carter replied with a 96 break, the 2003 UK Champion added a break of 115 in reducing the deficit to 5-4 at the halfway stage.
He then took the opening two frames of the evening to move in front for the first time, but only for Carter to hit back with three in a row to lead 8-6.
Stevens, however, bounced back again and reeled off four consecutive frames with high breaks of 139 and 60 to seal a memorable victory.
Clarke, meanwhile, secured his second Crucible appearance in the space of three years after a 10-8 victory over 2006 World Champion Graeme Dott.
Clarke opened up a 6-3 lead at the end of the first session and added to his lead with a break of 91 in frame ten.
Dott then hit back with five of the next six frames to draw level at eight apiece, firing in a break of 138 along the way.
Clarke, though, stopped the rot with a break of 76 and after the 18th frame went down to the final black, the Welshman sunk an unexpected treble to seal qualification before falling to the floor in relief.
Meanwhile, Vafaei made history by becoming the first Iranian player to qualify for the World Championship after a nail-biting 10-9 victory over Lei Peifan.
Vafaei established a 4-1 lead before the 18-year-old turned the tables to move 6-5 ahead in the evening session.
Peifan forced a dramatic deciding frame with a break of 78 and looked to be heading for The Crucible after building a 61-point lead, but only for Vafaei to produced a nerveless half century clearance to snatch a monumental victory.
David Gilbert, semi-finalist three years ago, was the most convincing winner of the day as he swept aside former German Masters champion Anthony Hamilton 10-3.
Noppon Saengkham joined his Thai compatriot Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in Thursday’s draw courtesy of a 10-8 victory over recent Gibraltar Open champion Robert Milkins.
Chris Wakelin secured a place in his third World Championship after a 10-7 defeat of Jimmy Robertson which included a top break of 131.
Liam Highfield also booked his place in a third World Championship after a 10-7 victory over emerging star Yuan Sijun with a top break of 123.
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World Championship Qualifiers – Judgement Day Part II Results
Wednesday April 13
David Gilbert 10-3 Anthony Hamilton
Jimmy Robertson 7-10 Chris Wakelin
Noppon Saengkham 10-8 Robert Milkins
Liam Highfield 10-7 Yuan SiJun
Ali Carter 8-10 Matthew Stevens
Jackson Page 10-6 David Grace
Graeme Dott 8-10 Jamie Clarke
Lei Peifan 9-10 Hossein Vafaei