SOUTH London snooker star Marc Harman’s victory in the Cuestars Open at Salisbury SC has blown the title race wide open.
Although Harman (pictured), from Tolworth, emerged unbeaten from a 24-strong field, it was a 3-2 first-round defeat of ranking leader Neil Craycraft that gave the chasing pack hope.
Harman – ranked No 70 on the English Association of Snooker & Billiards (EASB) Pro-Ticket Tour, a feeder for the professional circuit – overcame 14-year-old Liam Burnet (The Academy, Eastleigh) 3-1 in the final.
A first tournament win of the season took Harman up to 11th.
Craycraft heads to Jesters SC, Swindon, on May 17 for the final fixture of the ten-event series across the South of England.
He holds a slender three-point lead over Nathan Williams, who also suffered an early exit.
Williams (Salisbury SC) beat Dennis Hushley (Copnor SC, Portsmouth) 3-2 in the first round but went out 3-0 in the last 16 to Phil Wildman (Colours, Reading) to close the gap by just one point.
In fact, Salisbury proved to be a graveyard for the title contenders.
None of the top seven won more than one match in the main competition.
Sixth-placed David Volante (Jesters, Swindon) kept alive an outside hope of the title with a 2-0 Plate final victory over 15-year-old Lee Bell (The Academy, Eastleigh).
Any of the top nine have a chance of claiming the title.
Harman became the ninth different winner of Cuestars Open events this season. Neil Herd, Nick Birney, Williams, Craycraft, James Sumner, Sebastian Worrall, Billy Castle and Shane Castle all have one victory each.
LAST 32 (three points): Marc Harman (Wimbledon) bt Neil Craycraft (147, Swindon) 3-2, Liam Tinne (Salisbury SC) bt Alan Childs (Salisbury SC) 3-1, James Bolton (Salisbury SC) bt Mark Silvester (Cowplain Club) bt 3-0, Duncan Humphreys (Salisbury SC) bt Liam O’Shea (Jesters SC, Swindon) 3-0, Nick Birney (Liberal Club, High Wycombe) bt David Volante (Jesters SC, Swindon) 3-0, Dion Baker (Copnor SC, Portsmouth) bt Fred Pearce (Burgh Heath, Surrey) 3-2, Phil Wildman (Colours, Reading) bt Ben Tanner (The Academy, Eastleigh) 3-2, Nathan Williams (Salisbury SC) bt Dennis Hushley (Copnor SC, Portsmouth) 3-2.
LAST 16 (five points): Harman bt Tinne 3-2, Bolton bt Humphreys 3-1, Birney bt Baker 3-2, Wildman bt Williams 3-0, Liam Burnet (The Academy, Eastleigh) bt Scott Brady (Bracknell) 3-0, Dean Matthews (Rileys, Reading) bt Ron Ellis (Burgh Heath, Surrey) 3-1, Sam Jefferson (Jesters SC, Swindon) bt Lee Bell (The Academy, Eastleigh) 3-1, Lee Roling (The Academy, Eastleigh) bt Mason Sawyer (Colours, Reading) 3-0.
QUARTER-FINALS (eight points): Harman bt Bolton 3-1, Birney bt Wildman 3-2, Burnet bt Matthews 3-2, Jefferson bt Roling 3-0.
SEMI-FINALS (12 points): Harman bt Birney 3-1, Burnet bt Jefferson 3-0.
FINAL (25/18 points): Harman bt Burnet 3-1.
LAST 16: Sawyer bt Childs 2-1, Bell bt O’Shea 2-1, Hushley bt Ellis.
QUARTER-FINALS: Bell bt Sawyer 2-0, Hushley bt Tanner 2-0, Volante bt Pearce 2-0, Craycraft bt Brady 2-0.
SEMI-FINALS (one point): Bell bt Hushley 2-1, Volante bt Craycraft 2-0.
FINAL (five/three points): Volante bt Bell 2-0.