DAVID GILLICK underlined his gold medal credentials at the World Indoor Championships in Doha by qualifying second-fastest for this afternoon's 400m decider, despite a stumble in yesterday's semi-final.
The Dubliner was just the thickness of his vest behind US champion Bernshaw Jackson in an incident-packed race.
Jackson won by just two hundredths of a second in 46.13 as Gillick made a terrific recovery after having to chop his stride at halfway when the American closed off the gap.
It looked as if Gillick had edged Jackson, but the photo revealed that he was millimetres behind in 46.15.
It was a pulsating race and today's final, due for 3.05, looks set to be another thriller. Gillick showed that he is a serious contender for the gold medal, with his strength possibly a vital factor in the last 100 metres.
In the slower second semi-final, Chris Brown of the Bahamas took first in 46.69 from Jamaal Torrence (46.73).
Gillick was not offering the traffic problem as an excuse for being beaten, but he is confident of success today.
"I'm a little disappointed because I thought I had him in the last 20 metres, but he just hung on. Still, I'm in there shooting for a medal and I will be giving it everything I have," added Gillick, who also looked impressive when winning his heat earlier in the day in 46.78.
Ireland's other 400m challenger, 20-year-old Brian Gregan, ran a solid race to finish third in his heat, but his time of 47.26 was two tenths of a second short of getting him through as one of the fastest losers.
Gregan was one of three Irish athletes who failed to survive the morning session. David McCarthy was eliminated when he finished fourth in his heat of the 800m and Deirdre Ryan was joint 17th in the high jump.
Things did not change much in the afternoon and there were four more eliminations in the heats before Claire Brady from Kildare qualified for the semi-finals of the women's 60m as one of the fastest losers. She finished fifth in her heat in 7.46.
However, both representatives in the women's 3,000m, Hazel Murphy and Deirdre Byrne, trailed home at the back of the field. The disappointment continued in the 1,500m where both Irish women, Roseanne Galligan and Kelly McNeice, were eliminated when finishing seventh in their heats.
Former Olympic champion Liu Xiang made a cautious return to global competition and ruled himself out of winning a medal after finishing third in his 60m hurdles heat in the 15th-fastest time overall.
The Chinese athlete ran 7.79 seconds to qualify for tomorrow's semi-final in his first international championship since an Achilles' tendon injury left him unable to compete in the Beijing Olympics.
"It's impossible for me to get a medal," said the former world record holder. "The tendon is sore. There is no power. I only want to go to the final."