Barry Hawkins and Ricky Walden showed their pedigree at the WST Pro Series event by finishing in the top two positions in Group D to reach the last 32 in Milton Keynes.
2013 world finalist Hawkins topped the section by winning the group decider 2-1 with breaks of 81 and 90 enough for the victory with Walden restoring parity with a splendid effort of 129 in the second frame.
Hawkins is up to eighth place on the one-year ranking list and can only be denied a place at the Tour Championship later this month by Zhou Yeulong.
WST Pro Series 2021
'I'm loving it' – Williams celebrates 46th birthday with WST Pro Series title
21/03/2021 AT 20:52
“I have been practising hard, and winning matches builds confidence,” said Hawkins, who has reached the last four of the German Masters and Players Championship in recent weeks. “And lockdown helped because it stopped me going to the pub!
The Tour Championship would be a brilliant tournament to be involved in, especially as I have never been close to getting into it before. It’s a chance to compete against the top players.
“I have managed to guarantee my place at the Crucible as well so I can look forward to that. I hope there will be crowds there because it’s a much better place to play with fans.”
World number 33 Walden had won all six of his group matches to confirm his progress with the section before facing Hawkins, who was also through with one match to spare despite suffering his only defeat of the day in a 2-0 loss to former European Masters champion Jimmy Robertson.
Robertson had opened his win over world number 14 Hawkins with a sparkling knock of 143, the highest break of his career.
Paul Davison emulated fellow 49-year-old Fergal O'Brien by missing the final pink on 134 when on course for a 147 break to become the oldest maximum maker in snooker history. He completed a 2-1 win over Gerard Greene, but finished bottom of the eight-man section.
Hawkins and Walden are through to the second group stage of the WST Pro Series which begins on Wednesday 17 March with 32 qualifiers from 16 groups making up four more groups of eight.
The final group will be contested between the top two from each group on Sunday 21 March, the day before the Tour Championship begins at Celtic Manor in Wales.

WST Pro Series last-32 qualifiers

  • Jack Lisowski
  • Luca Brecel
  • Luo Honghao
  • Zhou Yeulong
  • Shaun Murphy
  • Louis Heathcote
  • Zhao Xintong
  • Dominic Dale
  • Stuart Bingham
  • Sam Craigie
  • Martin O'Donnell
  • Lu Ning
  • Kyren Wilson
  • Sunny Akani
  • Joe Perry
  • Xiao Guodong
  • Oliver Lines
  • James Cahill
  • Ali Carter
  • Mark Davis
  • Ben Woollaston
  • Fergal O'Brien
  • Barry Hawkins
  • Ricky Walden
WST Pro Series 2021
Williams makes fine start to WST Pro Series final day
21/03/2021 AT 15:06
WST Pro Series 2021
'Outside chance' – Bingham and Trump eye world title glory
20/03/2021 AT 23:10