Michael Judge and James Cahill will meet in the final round of Betfred World Championship qualifying, with the winner to become the first ever amateur to compete at the Crucible after the pair secured second round victories on day five.
Ireland’s Judge came through a final frame decider to beat world number 23 Xiao Guodong 10-9 this evening. The 2004 Grand Prix semi-finalist, who dropped off the tour in 2011, has charted the most dramatic of routes to Judgement Day.
Judge only found out that he had a place in the event on Monday afternoon, after Zhang Jiankang pulled out. That allowed him to enter as a Q School top up. Less than two days later he faced Peter Lines in a late night thriller, which he won 10-9 in a 3am finish.
This evening’s match unfolded in an equally thrilling fashion. Judge moved 8-4 in front, before being pegged back to 9-9. He eventually took the decider to claim another post-midnight 10-9 victory.
Judge’s last Crucible appearance came during his professional career in 2008. If he were to win on Judgement Day, it would be the fourth largest ever gap between appearances in the final stages of the World Championship.
“I got a phone call at four o’clock on Monday afternoon to say someone had pulled out. I was delighted and entered straight away, but then she said I was playing my first session at ten o’clock on Wednesday morning,” said former professional Judge. “Luckily Shaun Murphy let me play on his table that night and I squashed a few hours in. I really got the speed of the table, so it wasn’t too bad when I came over and played Peter Lines in the first match. I’m absolutely delighted and still in shock. To be an amateur now and one game from the Crucible is like a dream come true.
“It is great to have a crack at this. I was always hoping to have one more go, just to see how I got on and find out if I still had it. It seems like I am still doing alright, so I am just delighted to be back here.
“It would be the best achievement I have ever done. I’m playing part-time now. I squashed in a few hours of practice having not played in ten days. I have come over here to face best players in the world.”
Cahill secured a massive 10-7 win over Michael Holt, which secured him a tour card, as well as his place in the final round of qualifying.
The Blackpool potter is also playing as an amateur Q School top up this week, having been relegated from the tour in 2017. His victory today means he can look forward to resuming professional status next season.
Cahill said: “I think I’ve definitely shown now that I am good enough. I just want to get on the tour and get up the rankings where I think I can potentially be. I have dedicated my life to it over the last year. Maybe a few years ago I didn’t do that. Snooker is everything for me and I’m glad to have this chance.
“It’s everyone’s dream to play at the Crucible. I have to win this next match first though. There are still another ten frames to win, but if I carry on doing what I’m doing, then I’m going to be hard to beat.”
Daniel Wells produced a blistering run to pull clear of Iran’s Hossein Vafaei and book his place on Judgement Day with a 10-6 win.
Wells is aiming to cap off a fine season, which saw him reach his maiden ranking semi-final at the Scottish Open, with a first trip to the Crucible
The Welshman trailed 6-5 when he summoned five consecutive breaks of 107, 83, 113, 100 and 65 to storm to a 10-6 victory. He now faces Martin Gould in the final qualifying round, who beat Gerard Greene 10-6.
Tour rookie Joe O’Connor is also one game away from a maiden Crucible appearance after a narrow 10-9 win over Jimmy Robertson. He’ll face the fastest player on the circuit, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, up next. The Thai progressed with a 10-5 win over Mark Joyce.