Ken Doherty admits he is left relying on the offer of an invitational tour card after seeing his Crucible dream dashed and losing his pro status.
The 50-year-old former champion had been desperately hoping to secure a first visit to the iconic theatre and the Betfred World Championships for six years.
But standing just two qualifying wins away Doherty, in his 30th year as a professional, was beaten 6-3 by world No 46 Mark King.
King is now 46, but as a 12-year-old Doherty put him through his paces in Essex snooker clubs. Yesterday, however, it was former Northern Ireland Open winner King who had the whip hand.
Six-time ranking event winner Doherty, the 1997 Crucible king, actually led 1-0 helped by a break of 58 – but King then reeled off five frames in a row helped by breaks of 125, 73 and 61.
Doherty battled back to 5-3 adrift – but King impressively sealed victory with a fine break of 97.
Defeat means that Doherty has failed to stay in the top 64 over the 2019-20 season – a position that would have guaranteed him tour survival.
And he hopes a second tour wildcard for services to the sport from World Snooker may come to save him.
Doherty said: “It’s a hard one to take. You always want to play at the Crucible in Sheffield and I am very disappointed that I won’t be there. I have had a lot of great years there.
“Who knows, I may have played there for the last time already. But I haven’t given up hope and may get back before I finish.
“I have fallen off the tour now, so we’ll wait and see what happens. I won’t go to Qualifying School in August, I won’t go down that road.
I don’t know when I will play again. If I was offered an invitational card and there was one available, I would definitely take it.
“Mark played very well today and although I battled back a bit near the end I had left it too late.
“I think it started going wrong as early as the second frame, I missed a black off the spot and should have been 2-0 up. And there was another frame where I let it go.
“I was looking at the scoreboard when I was 5-2 down and I could easily have been 5-2 up. But that’s snooker, a couple of balls here and there.”
Meanwhile another Irish stalwart, Fergal O’Brien, is just one win away from a similar double – saving his pro status and getting to the Crucible for only a second time in 10 years.
The 48-year-old from Dublin, hovering just outside the top 64, takes on China’s Liang Wenbo today over the best-of-19 frames.
Even if he loses, though, O’Brien has one extra route to salvation – currently sitting in the top four places on the one-year money list which could serve as an insurance policy if he remains there.
He added: “I have a match to win to get to the Crucible. And as far as staying on the tour goes, for me the maths are simple.
“If I win that match, I get to the Crucible, and stay on the tour. There is no need to look at it any closer than that.
“That would get me my pro card back on at least two counts, enough prize money and also the new rule saying if you qualify, you are automatically on tour.
“That is my total focus. I have zero intention of retiring from playing snooker, my love of it and desire to play is as strong as ever. So if for some reason I did fall off, I would go straight to the Qualifying School to fight to get my card back, 100 per cent.”