Former world champion Graeme Dott warmed up for Crucible ‘Judgement Day’ in a grand manner with a magnificent second career 147 maximum break.
The 44-year-old Scot thrashed Chinese prospect Pang Junxu 6-1 at the English Institute of Sport to leave world No 35 Dott one win away from a return to the iconic Sheffield Theatre.
The 2006 winner Dott, who has also reached two other Betfred World Championship finals, now must beat Wales’s Jamie Clarke to secure a first appearance since 2019. But the huge highlight of Monday’s win was his perfect break in frame six that could earn him £25,000 if not equalled in either qualifying or the final stages.
Dott’s only previous competitive maximum came 23 years ago against David Roe at the British Open.
Dott, who plays Clarke on Wednesday, said: “It was a fantastic buzz to make the 147. I don’t make many, not even in practice like some of the players do.
“There was a spell when I turned pro when I was doing it regularly in the club but I honestly can’t remember the last time.
“So it was really good, especially to do it at the World Championship. When I potted the last red it was just holding myself together and not bottling it. I did that really well.
“I haven’t made it to the Crucible for a couple of years, but I am as determined as I have ever been to get there, not just because of the recent seasons.
“I have lost twice on Judgement Day in the final qualifiers and it is really not nice, it is not an enjoyable match to play in even if you win.
“But I feel my game is in good shape and hopefully if I play well I have a decent chance of getting back there.
“Jamie Clarke is a fantastic player, I played him in Wales a few events back and managed to win but that won’t have any bearing on this match. For him to beat Gary Wilson 6-0 he must be playing really well.”
Dott is bidding to secure a 21st appearance at the final stages of the World Championship, and has a record on the biggest stage that most professionals would be proud of.
Clearly the highlight of his 28-year pro career came in 2006 when he came through a brutal and epic final against Peter Ebdon to win 18-14 and lift the famous trophy.
That final attracted plenty of negative publicity for the sometimes pedestrian pace of play, and not renowned for being a slow player - later admitted this had been irritating, placing the blame on his opponent who had more form in that area.
However Dott has proven he is no one-trick pony in Sheffield. He lost the 2004 final to an inspired Ronnie O’Sullivan 18-8. And then four years after winning the blue-riband tournament himself he went down 18-13 to Australia’s Neil Robertson in 2010.
Dott also won what is still only a second ranking title at the China Open the following season in 2007.
And in recent years looking to add to his tally he has lost ranking finals at the German Masters, in the Shootout and at the World Grand Prix.
But it is at the Crucible, with its unique and intense atmosphere and the longer multi-session matches, that the Scot has shown his best form.
Meanwhile Iran’s much-fancied Hossein Vafaei, who has enjoyed the best season of his career, is also one win away from a Crucible debut after whitewashing Germany’s Simon Lichtenberg 6-0.
Vafaei only narrowly missed out on being one of the 16 seeds that automatically got a place in the final staged without having to endure the gruelling qualifying process. And he was a hot tip for many this year to come through and delight his legions of fans back home in snooker-mad Iran.
World No18 Vafaei, 27, and the reigning Shootout champion, said: “I felt very comfortable, playing good safety and then punishing him by taking my chances.
“I am happy with the way I am playing, though the loss to Judd Trump in the semi-finals of the Welsh Open was a tough one from 5-3 up, and I might have got a £150,000 bonus if I had won that title.
“It is very hard to get to the Crucible, but I am trying my best to make my fans and country proud. I feel I was born to make history.”
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