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The 1994 Masters champion illustrated why his enduring class and longevity is better suited to longer matches as he led world number 87 Heathcote – a 6-3 winner over two-time world finalist Ali Carter in the penultimate round – from start to finish at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.
The evergreen world number 53 hit top breaks of 52 and a closing run of 96 as he deployed all of his trademark matchplay skills to return to the sport's grandest stage having built a 6-3 lead from the afternoon session.
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Aged 49, McManus will be the oldest player to appear at the Crucible since six-times winner Steve Davis reached the quarter-finals at the age of 52 in 2010.
"The old timers are back. I'm pleased to get through," said McManus, who usurped Chinese teenager Wu Yize 6-3 in the penultimate round of qualifying. "I'm a little disappointed as I didn't play well in both my matches, but conditions were difficult. It was a little bit hot in there and it was pretty slow.
"I came with a method and sort of dug in. I got some practise at the beginning of June so I managed to turn up with some sort of game. It was nice to get through.
"6-1 sounds like a big lead, but you still have to get four. When it got to 8-5 and 9-5, I felt good and I was able to close it out."
McManus beat fellow Scots Stephen Maguire and John Higgins and Carter on his way to the semi-finals four years ago before losing 17-11 to China's leading player Ding Junhui.
He also reached the last four in 1992 and 1993 in a period of time when he spent 16 years inside the game's top 16 between 1991 and 2006. This will be the 21st time he has played at the Crucible as he readies himself for an event delayed since April due to the health crisis.
"29 years is a long time. It's a shame it is not going to be a full crowd, but it's brilliant to be part of it and I'll look forward to the draw," said McManus.
"There are some guys I'd like to play. I love playing John Higgins at the Crucible, but you take who you get. I'll go back and work hard for the next couple of days, but I found a little something in my game tonight that might help for the Crucible and I might be able to upset one or two."
McManus will be joined in the draw for the final 32 with fellow 49-year-old master cueman Anthony Hamilton who completed a 10-5 win over Scott Donaldson on a frantic day of qualifying.
The Nottingham player – dubbed the 'Sheriff of Pottingham' – watched Donaldson roll in 64 to restore parity at 5-5 in the first frame of the evening session before Hamilton dominated the closing five frames boosted by breaks of 87, 69 and 131 to run away with matters.
The 2017 German Masters winner last appeared at the Crucible in 2008 on a night that proved experience can never be discounted on the green baize.
Elsewhere, Liang Wenbo made a magnificent clearance of 141 in the closing frame to edge out Fergal O'Brien in the deciding frame in a 10-9 epic that went beyond midnight.
Alexander Ursenbacher will be the first Swiss player to play at the Crucible after his 10-8 win over Andrew Higginson that included breaks of 54, 84, 57, 67, 64 and 76.
“I don’t care who I draw, I just want to go there and play and enjoy it," he said. "I just hope I don’t start crying. I am holding the tears back now, that’s how much it means."
Monday 27 July – Final Qualifying Round
- Alexander Ursenbacher 10-8 Andrew Higginson
- Martin O’Donnell 3-10 Elliot Slessor
- Noppon Saengkham 10-2 Eden Sharav
- Anthony Hamilton 10-5 Scott Donaldson
- Ashley Carty 10-8 Robert Milkins
- Matthew Selt 1-10 Kurt Maflin
- Fergal O’Brien 9-10 Liang Wenbo
- Alan McManus 10-5 Louis Heathcote
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