Dubliner Ken Doherty’s wait to enter the Citywest Irish Masters was not in vain last night as he brought the first round to a winning close.
Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis and Paul Hunter had all been and gone before Doherty struck a ball in anger against Stuart Bingham.
And while he was putting the finishing touches to a 5-1 victory, world champion and world number one Mark Williams also bowed out of the competition.
But while Williams, Hendry and defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan claim to be underwhelmed by snooker at the moment, Doherty is in bullish mood.
“I know practice can be hard but I just love playing snooker,” said the 1997 world champion.
“There is nothing better than going out and playing in front of a big crowd. I feel lucky and privileged.
“I would play for nothing. If it’s a chore for some players to turn up and play, I don’t know what is wrong with them.
“We are all privileged and we should respect that privilege.”
Doherty has had a barren season apart from a semi-final appearance in the LG Cup – the opening event of the campaign last October.
So, he was not getting carried away by his opening success over Bingham.
“Every game is tough,” said Doherty, who now plays Scottish Open winner David Gray for a place in the last eight.
“If you don’t play up to scratch you are going to get knocked out.
“David is a good player and you should not take anything for granted at this level.”
But if Doherty can find any run of form he has an outstanding chance of winning the title on Sunday night.
“The expectation levels are always high here but the crowd is there to inspire me,” he added.
World number one Williams claimed he was not bothered by his customary early departure from the event.
The Welshman lost 5-2 against Anthony Hamilton, the world number 20 from Nottingham.
Twice a ranking tournament runner-up – including defeat by Williams in the China Open final – Hamilton produced some outstanding snooker to reach the last eight.
He fired in runs of 100, 100, 64 and 65 to leave dad-to-be Williams holding the baby a month early.
“Someone is going to have to play well to beat me,” warned Hamilton.
There is no play today as the arena is made ready for the television cameras.
When the tournament resumes tomorrow, Doherty tackles Gray and O’Sullivan meets Essex rival Brian Morgan to finalise the quarter-final draw.