What an interesting first day of final qualifying it was for the 888.com World Championship here at the English Institute of Sport yesterday.
The first man through to the Crucible was Marco Fu, who made a century and seven half century breaks in beating Alan McManus 10-3.
It seems somewhat harsh Marco even has to qualify but, of course, only the top 16 in the official rankings are guaranteed their places.
Next through was Liang Wenbo, who became only the fifth Asian player and second Chinese to qualify for the Crucible.
Liang doesn’t speak much English but we didn't need a translator for the broad smile he wore after his 10-5 defeat of 2005 semi-finalist Ian McCulloch.
He said he wanted to draw Ding at the Crucible. Whether he does or not, his presence there takes some of the pressure off his more well known compatriot who is no longer flying the Chinese flag on his own.
Matthew Stevens was mightily relieved to have got through after being forced to pre-qualify for the first time since 1999.
“It was a horrible feeling having to play here but the rankings don’t lie and if you drop out of the top 16 you have to play this match. Even so, it was a weird feeling driving here knowing that if I lost I wouldn’t be at the Crucible and would have to suffer all summer,” Stevens said after beating Rory McLeod 10-5.
Joe Swail won Friday’s final match, beating Judd Trump 10-9 from 9-7 down.
This was the latest in a long line of matches Swail has won in deciders and from behind in the World Championship and served, once again, as testament to his battling qualities.
What he lacks in natural ability, the Belfast man more than makes up for in heart, fight and sheer courage.
He said afterwards that he drew inspiration from his past victories. It’s a little disappointing that 18 year-old Trump hasn’t qualified but nobody could begrudge Swail his place.
The set up here – four tables in a large sized hall – is excellent and there was a great atmosphere for yesterday’s opening four games.
This round means so much to the players that there’s a fair amount of drama, joy and disappointment.
All of which is likely to be multiplied considerably when Jimmy White enters the fray on Monday.