Stuart Bingham and Ben Woollaston are the latest players to win their Matchroom.Live Championship League groups, and Bingham was left sweating on other results backstage at Marshall Arena before his progression to the next phase was confirmed.
‘Ball Run’, a previous Championship League winner, had beaten Jamie Clarke 3-0 and drawn with Jordan Brown ahead of his clash with Ricky Walden, who also had four points in the group after matching Bingham’s results like-for-like.
That meant the match winner would advance, but in the event of a draw Bingham – who had a higher break than Walden – would be left waiting on the result of Brown against Clarke, with the former needing a 3-0 win.
At 2-1 up over Walden, Bingham looked on course to make it 3-1 and top the group outright, but he opted to take on a tricky pink rather than a straight blue and when he missed, his break of 62 broke down. That allowed Walden to steal the frame and keep the Essex man waiting nervously backstage.
The wait wasn’t long, however, as Clarke took the first frame against Brown, for whom only a 3-0 win would do. That sealed Bingham’s progression, and as Clarke won the match 3-0, he leapfrogged Brown into third.
“That was mad, I don’t like to make it easy on myself,” said Bingham afterwards. “Hats off to Jamie to get the frame. I made a mistake on the blue ball where I needed just the blue but I looked at the scoreboard and I just went blank. Ricky did well to clear up and that put a few extra grey hairs on me tonight!
“Watching it all week, the winners usually had at least seven points so the way it is worked out is mad but I’m over the moon to get through.
“I was happy with my game, considering we haven’t played a competitive match for three or four months. I was a bit twitchy in some of the frames but all-in-all it’s a good days work.
“Harvey Chandler and Ronnie are in my next group so I am going to stay here a couple more days and practice in the mornings.”
On table two, Woollaston won his first two matches 3-0, against Liam Highfield and Thor Chuan Leong. That set up a group decider against Jimmy Robertson, who had four points after drawing with Highfield and beating Thor.
A point would be enough for Woollaston, and he was assured of that after taking the first two frames. Robertson hit back to ensure he finished second in the table, but it was the Leicester man who advanced to the next round, where Tom Ford and Liang Wenbo will be amongst his opponents.
“I knew I needed a draw against Jimmy,” said Woollaston. “I played two perfect frames really and should have won the match 3-0 but I put so much into those two frames that I probably lost my concentration a bit, but I am happy to be through.
“In a short format you need to play some good some good frames, steal a few frames and see how it goes. There is still a long way to go but I will try and play well, because I know this gets you into the Champion of Champions as well.”
Matchroom.Live Championship League continues on Sunday. Live scoring can be found at www.wst.tv. Group fixtures, results, standings and details of how to watch can be found at http://www.championshipleaguesnooker.co.uk/.