Evergreen icons Ali Carter and Mark Williams – with 54 years between them as elite professionals – claimed the first two spots in the inaugural WST Pro Series final group after a frantic finish to Group 1 in Milton Keynes on Wednesday.
Carter suffered his only defeat of the day in a 2-0 loss to Williams before the two-times world finalist finished on 18 points, three clear of Williams, Martin O'Donnell and Sunny Akani, who all earned 15 points from their seven group games.
Three-times world champion Williams edged out O'Donnell by one frame and Akani by two on frame difference over the rapid league format to join Carter in qualifying as runner-up.
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Williams required a 2-0 win over Cahill in his final fixture to ensure his progress and hit breaks of 71 and 61 to overcome the 2019 World Championship last-16 qualifier, whose 57 in the first frame was not enough to deny the Welshman.
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“I’m very pleased. It turned out to be a tough group in the end. Martin O’Donnell would have got through if he won 2-0 and I’d lost. He doesn’t know I won 2-0 yet, so he will be sick when he comes off," said Williams.
I think my game is quite good. I’ve been playing alright for the last few months really. I’m just a little bit inconsistent, I can play really well for a few frames, then can’t pot a ball for two or three frames. That is the way it is, you just have to enjoy the ride.
"I must be a nightmare for people who support me, because I look a million dollars for a couple of frames and then about £3.50 for the next couple."
Carter enjoyed breaks of 129 in a 2-0 win against O'Donnell and a 100 knock in a 2-1 victory over Akani.
The world number 24 was always in control of his destiny with victories against Louis Heathcote, Akani, O’Donnell, Ben Hancorn, James Cahill and Lyu Haotian easing him into Sunday's final eight-man group with the winner claiming £20,000 and the title.
2005 world champion Shaun Murphy and Kyren Wilson are in action on Friday when Group 2 is settled to see who joins Carter and Williams in the final eight.
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