GRAEME Dott recognised on Tuesday that he must win a second China Open title to snatch the final automatic place at the Betfred World Championships.

The 2006 Crucible king rallied to beat amateur Daniel Wells 5-3 on Tuesday night at the China Open to set up an all-Scottish last-32 clash with John Higgins.

But the 37-year-old Dott has to go all the way in Beijing, where he lifted the trophy in 2007, to avoid being pitched into a brutal qualifying process.

Radical changes this season mean those just outside the top 16 have to play three matches rather than just one in previous years.

Dott is currently ranked 19th – and it would take the £85,000 winner’s cheque on Sunday to propel him into the line-up without further battles.

He said: “At least it’s simple – I have to win the title here. But realistically I am not a prolific winner, I have won two ranking titles and the last one was here eight years ago.

“So for now I am resigned to the three qualifiers – if I get to the semi-finals then I might start to think differently.

“I did beat John the last time we played at the Grand Prix, so that is nice to take into our match but every game is different.”

Four-time world champion Higgins, 39, beat home hope Yu Delu 5-3.

He said: “I was very pleased to win. Yu is a tough player, and playing in front of his own fans very motivated to win. He wanted to put on a show so I was pleased to get through.

“Every day is different – some days you feel good at the end, and from 3-3 today I made a century and a 70 to get over the line which was pleasing.

“Winning in Wales in February took the pressure off staying in the top 16 and qualifying automatically for the Crucible, falling out and qualifying would have been tough to take.

“So there is no pressure here other than wanting to do well at the tournament.”

Stephen Maguire remained in pole position for the last place on Tuesday. But Michael White could possibly nick his spot by reaching at least the semi-finals, while at the close of play on Tuesday Rob Milkins had to reach at least the final, and Mark Davis and Ryan Day were in the same position as Dott.


Photograph by Monique Limbos