Stuart Bingham and Ben Woollaston are through to the final group of Matchroom.Live Championship League after ‘Ballrun’ beat Ronnie O’Sullivan to top Group C and Woollaston won his last two matches 3-0 to steal first place in Group D from Martin O’Donnell.
Bingham, a previous Championship League winner, lost his first match of the day to Sam Craigie but wins over Harvey Chandler and then The Rocket made him the first player to top a group having suffered defeat.
The 2015 World Champion faced O’Sullivan in his third and final match. O’Sullivan just needed a point to advance having already defeated Craigie and Chandler. If Bingham won 3-0 he would advance while a 3-1 success for the Basildon potter would leave both players waiting on the result of Craigie v Chandler.
But Bingham put O’Sullivan under pressure, and the five-time World Champion wasn’t able to respond, losing for the first time in the tournament as he missed a green in the second frame and a black off the spot in the third to give his opponent frame-winning chances. O’Sullivan eventually finished third in the group after Craigie beat Chandler 3-0 to finish second.
“I knew I needed to win 3-0 to top the group,” said Bingham, who has so far accumulated £10,000 prize money from the event. “I took my chances. Who would have thought after my first game between me and Sam, it was like we were struggling to pot a ball between us but I got it going when it mattered.
“I am over the moon to get through. Ronnie had a tough green [in the second frame] but I still had to clear up and my own game is there. I took my chances when they came and I’m happy with the performance. I have three more games now on Thursday and I’ll have to play like that to have any chance.”
With Group C having finished earlier than Group D, the final match of table two moved across to table one, meaning the last two matches of the group took place simultaneously. O’Donnell, facing Tom Ford, needed a draw to advance, but Woollaston could steal top spot if he beat Liang Wenbo and O’Donnell didn’t get the point he required.
Ford took a 2-1 advantage over O’Donnell, while Woollaston led 2-0 against Wenbo on the other table. O’Donnell, who topped a first-stage group which included Mark Allen, needed to win the final frame against Ford but the World No.26 did his fellow Leicester man a huge favour with an 87 clearance to seal a 3-1 win at the very same time as Woollaston, who made three centuries in beating Ford, completed a 3-0 win over Wenbo to top the group.
“It’s amazing really,” said Woollaston. “I went into my last match thinking I would come second, so I was surprised when I came off that I was through.
“I went 2-0 up and knew that guaranteed me second. I thought about coming out just to look at the score but I didn’t because I didn’t want to know. Normally if you lose your first match you aren’t in a good position but me and Stuart have both now lost our first match and gone through, so I have as much chance as anyone.
“After beating Tom I had a few messages off people because I’m not really known for lots of centuries, so it was quite funny to do that. Both tables have been perfect today, really, really nice, so if you played badly it was your own fault.”
The Group Winners’ Phase concludes tomorrow with Judd Trump, David Gilbert, Ryan Day and Barry Hawkins in action in a tough-looking Group B on table one, while Gary Wilson, Luca Brecel, Mark Joyce and Ashley Carty battle it out in Group A on table two.