Two-times ranking event winner Dominic Dale produced a pressure clearance of 73 to beat Si Jiahui 2-1 and join Group K winner Zhao Xintong in the last 32 of the WST Pro Series ranking event in Milton Keynes.
1995 World Championship semi-finalist Andy Hicks lost 2-1 to Lee Walker in his final group game opening the door for Welshman Dale, who needed a victory over world number 90 Si to progress.
The man dubbed 'The Spaceman' recovered from trailing 44-1 to restore parity at 1-1 before a lovely break of 73 saw him complete a 2-1 triumph against the odds from 41 points behind.
His 2-1 win over Hicks earlier on Friday ensured Dale qualified on head-to-head after both men finished three points behind world number 28 Zhao on 12 points.
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“The group was incredibly tight, every frame was so important," said Eurosport pundit Dale, who turned professional in 1992, five years before Zhao was born.
"I was very lucky to get a chance to win in the last frame and I’ve no idea how I did it.
“I only had a couple of days' practice before coming here. I started quite well today, but then for my last four matches I couldn’t cue straight.
I lost all my confidence, but just grafted away and used my experience to win frames. I made a lot of rudimentary mistakes. I don’t know how I finished second, I must be Dynamo the magician.
Group winner Zhao hit 143 in a 2-1 defeat to Hicks plus breaks of 133 and 105 in a 2-1 victory against Dale amid five centuries on the day that sees him return for the last-32 group stage in March.
The action continues with Group A on Saturday that includes former world champions Shaun Murphy and Ken Doherty.
WST Pro Series last-32 qualifiers
- Zhao Xintong
- Dominic Dale
- Stuart Bingham
- Sam Craigie
- Martin O'Donnell
- Lu Ning
- Kyren Wilson
- Sunny Akani
- Joe Perry
- Xiao Guodong
This will be the first edition of the WST Pro Series, which has arrived on the snooker scene for 2021.
The legendary Stephen Hendry was set to make his eagerly-anticipated comeback, but withdrew on Friday January 15 and was replaced by John Astley. Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Mark Selby are also in the draw.
The WST Pro Series will offer up total prize money of £420,500 and will take place at Arena MK in Milton Keynes.
What is the format?
The players have been split into 16 groups of eight for the initial round-robin phase. All matches are best-of-three frames, and the top two in each group will progress to the second group stage.
The second phase will feature 32 players split into four groups of eight, and the top two in each group will then progress.
The player who finishes top of the final group of eight players will be crowned the champion of the inaugural edition of the event.
- January 18-25: Groups 1-8
- March 9-16: Groups 9-16
- March 17-20: Second group stage
- March 21: Final group