Six-time winner Steve Davis tonight failed to qualify for the World Championship after he was thrashed in the final round of qualifying by Stephen Lee.
Davis lost 10-2 as Lee claimed a prized place in the Crucible first-round draw. The World Championship begins on April 16.
Defeat could have been worse for Davis – at one stage he trailed 8-0 but managed to avoid a whitewash by splitting the next four frames.
Clearly dispirited with his performance from early in the match, Davis immediately left the venue – Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport – without commenting.
The crushing blow for the 53-year-old brings his season to a premature end, with Davis having failed to earn a place at next week’s Players Tour Championship Finals or the China Open, which begins on March 28. Should he decide to play on next season, which such a defeat calls into question, he will again have to win matches in qualifying tournaments to reach main draws.
Davis qualified for the World Championship last year and caused a major shock by beating defending champion John Higgins in the second round, before losing to eventual champion Neil Robertson, but this time will have to be satisfied with his BBC punditry role after the worst campaign of his career.
For the first time since turning professional in 1978, he has failed to reach either the UK Championship or the World Championship main draws in a season, and has dropped out of the world’s top 32.
Lee, the 36-year-old former Grand Prix champion from Trowbridge, had every cause to be delighted with his own performance, as he secured a first-round match against one of the top 16, who qualify automatically.
“I’m over the moon to beat Steve Davis 10-2,” Lee told Press Association Sport.
“I couldn’t tell you how bad I’d feel if I didn’t get to the Crucible. It would have left a nasty taste after an okay season.
“Steve didn’t really know where the table had gone when I was 6-0, 7-0 up.”
Former runner-up Matthew Stevens booked a return to the Crucible with a nail-biting 10-9 victory over Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien in a match which went to the final black.
Welshman Stevens, who lost to compatriot Mark Williams in the 2000 final and to England’s Shaun Murphy in 2005, failed to qualify in 2009 and 2010.
He was on the brink of going out at the final stage of qualifying when O’Brien built up a 59-1 lead in the deciding frame, aided by a fluked red.
With 59 points remaining, Stevens still had a chance and a superbly crafted run got him back to 59-53, only for him to run short of position for the black.
He played a smart safety and when O’Brien pushed the black towards the middle of the table Stevens gobbled up the long pot before roaring his delight.
“I still can’t believe I’ve won, I’m at the Crucible,” said 33-year-old Stevens.
“I potted a good black under pressure. Obviously I feel sorry for Fergal, because I was in that position last year, losing 10-9 in qualifying. But I’ve put a lot of work in and I’m starting to get what I deserve I think.”
Another Welshman, Ryan Day, won through to the first round proper by knocking out China’s Liu Chuang 10-7.
Bristol’s Judd Trump, who qualified in 2007 as a 17-year-old, will be back at the Crucible next month after a 10-4 success against David Gilbert.
“It’s been a long, long wait, and I’ve finally made it again, so it’s refreshing to be going back,” Trump said.
Scotland’s Marcus Campbell also qualified, ousting England’s Matthew Selt 10-6, while Essex’s Stuart Bingham overcame Glasgow’s Alan McManus 10-2 to join yesterday’s winners Rory McLeod, Joe Perry, Jamie Burnett, Mark King, Dominic Dale and Martin Gould.