Yorkshire potter Paul Davison faces former Masters champion Alan McManus today as he chases a golden ticket to the Crucible.
The 42-year-old from Pickering has never reached the televised stages of the World Championship before despite a career spanning over 20 years.
But after a 10-9 win over Chris Wakelin in the first round of qualifiers at Sheffield’s Ponds Forge, Davison today faces McManus. The Scot is only 10 months older than Davison, at 43, but he has enjoyed a high-profile career, twice reaching the semi-finals at the Crucible – winning the Masters in 1994 – and peaking at world No 6.
Now at a respectable 35 in the world rankings, McManus is joining other former top players like Steve Davis and Jimmy White looking to battle through the qualifiers to reach the televised stages of the tournament on April 19.
Not that Davison is expecting anything but a gritty contest when he cues off this morning.
“He is under-rated, Alan is not at the heights he was a few years ago but he’s a very tough match-player,” said Davison, who was back in York yesterday training before returning to Sheffield last night. “I will have to win it, he won’t be giving me anything.
“I have been practising hard for this, been playing well, and am ready for the challenge. Then just two more matches after that to reach the Crucible.
“It’s a long slog to win all four rounds, it’s not easy. You don’t have to play well in every match, just battle through.
“Being a Yorkshire lad it would be absolutely fantastic, a dream to play at the Crucible.
“If I ever did, I could die a happy man, having played all the other big venues in the world. That’s the last one to tick off my CV, playing at the Crucible. It would be a dream to get through.”
Davison looked to be cruising at 7-2 against Wakelin, only to suffer a collapse as he went 8-7 behind, before clinching the final-frame decider. “It’s never easy that first match at the World Championship,” he said. “It’s fierce, there’s no easy draws.”
Fellow Yorkshire cue man Joel Walker can attest to that, after scraping through 10-8 against Allan Taylor. Walker is aiming to be the first Sheffield player to ever play at the Crucible.
Fellow Sheffielder Adam Duffy lost 10-4 to Brazil’s Igor Figueiredo.
There were defeats also for Middlesbrough’s Antony Parsons, 10-8 to Chen Zhe, and Redcar’s Mike Dunn, 10-2 to Rhys Clark. Leeds potter David Grace lost 10-6 to Ross Muir, while Sheffield’s Mitchell Travis battled back to beat Sean O’Sullivan 10-9.