World Snooker Championship: Hugill's Fluke On The Black Secures Crucible Debut

The Yorkshire native also salvaged tour status in a huge week
09:29, 13 Apr 2022

Ashley Hugill produced an incredible fluke on the final black to secure himself a Crucible debut in a memorable week that also saw him salvage his professional tour status. 

The 27-year-old from York always looked in command against Leicester’s Joe O’Connor in the final-round qualifier for the Betfred World Championship at the English Institute of Sport. But in the end the world No77 needed an outrageous bit of luck on the decisive black to claim a 10-7 win that sealed his place in the line-up at the iconic Sheffield theatre. 

Yorkshire’s Hugill is currently based in Sheffield, a stone’s throw away from the venue at the renowned Victoria’s Academy, home also to Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong. But he has only previously been there to watch others play, including current player of the season Neil Robertson. 

Hugill said: “I didn’t play for that last black – I fluked it! And I needed that, the way the match was going. At the end the black has gone in and it didn’t sink in at all, I was just standing there – and then I heard all my family cheering. They sounded so excited, I heard that and then I was delighted. 

“I had really good support this week. I was confident before the qualifiers but then before the second match against Martin Gould and I was sick the night before. 

“I was on the toilet all night, and I was also fighting for my tour card too. So I didn’t really expect anything because I felt so bad, I only did 10 minutes practice, and that took the pressure off. 

“Today I felt much better and played well for most of the match. I would probably have celebrated more if I had cleared up at 9-6. 

“But by the end it was just sheer relief. It means so much to get there to play. I have been to watch maybe three times, I am from York but now based in Sheffield at Victoria’s Academy.” 

Stephen Maguire, twice a former Crucible semi-finalist, is also into the first-round draw after a battling 10-7 win over world No25 Zhou Yuelong. 

Six-time ranking event winner Maguire, 41, has slipped down the rankings to No40 after a poor season – but this was a morale-boosting victory. 

Maguire said: “It was a dog fight from start to finish. I thought I might pull away from 7-4 up but he kept clearing up. I was seeing gravestones and skulls out there trying to clear up in the last frame. It is so hard here to get through, you really don’t want to get beat and it is pure relief.” 

Like Hugill, amateur Michael White also secured a famous double – regaining his place on tour as he earned a first Crucible appearance for six years. The 30-year-old from Neath is a two-time ranking event winner but lost his professional status two years ago. 

After a 10-8 win against former Welsh Open champion Jordan Brown, White said: “It was a good black at the end to win it, and I am absolutely thrilled. But look what happened before! We were both struggling, and I was battling and not really firing.” 

The last time Ding Junhui had to qualify he ended up getting to the final in 2016 – losing to Mark Selby. The 35-year-old from China, whose ranking has fallen to No29 due to poor form but also serious travel and quarantine issues during the pandemic, has shown better form of late. 

The winner of 14 ranking titles was expected to cruise through qualifying, but made hard work of a 10-7 win over amateur David Lilley – at one stage trailing 7-4. 

Ding said: “It was a battle today. I was 2-0 up with two breaks and thought it might be a good day. But then he started putting me under pressure and keeping me off the table. 

“At 7-4 down at least you have the chance to come back in the longer matches, and I managed to first get level at 7-7, and then win the match. 

“People were telling me this was an easy game and I would qualify easily, but there are no easy games. Throughout the tour they can all play. 

“I haven’t thought too much about being at the Crucible yet – but I’m sure when the draw is made on Thursday that will come. 

“I did get to the final last time I had to qualify so it would be nice to go one better than that this time.”

DING JUNHUI 28/1 TO WIN THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP - BETFRED*

*18+ | BeGambleAware

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