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Stevens on Dublin mission as Crucible looms large

Welshman Matthew Stevens has targeted a return to the world's top eight as his resurgence gathers pace at the PartyCasino.com Players Tour Championship Grand Finals in Dublin.

The two-time former World Championship runner-up has missed trips to the Crucible in each of the past two seasons, having failed to qualify after tumbling down the rankings.

But the 33-year-old has bounced back to form and will be in Sheffield next month after beating Dubliner Fergal O'Brien in a tense qualifier on Sunday.

Last night he posted another win at the Helix in Dublin, sinking Northern Ireland's Gerard Greene 4-2 in Dublin.

Stevens, who was 25th in the world at the start of the season, said: "I'm provisionally back in the top 16 but hopefully I can not think about that and try to get higher up into the top eight and be back where I think I belong."

The former world number four has had a change of mindset and is enjoying the results of his extra effort.

He said: "I probably wasn't practising enough or taking it too seriously but the standard is very good these days and it's difficult.

"Winning breeds confidence as you can practise as much as you like but not get the results but at the moment I'm doing both - practising hard and winning matches."

Stevens faces another Welshman, Dominic Dale, in the second round tomorrow evening. Dale is also among a five-strong Welsh contingent who will head to the Crucible. Earlier, Marco Fu suffered a shock 4-1 defeat to Englishman Michael Holt. Holt said: "This event in Ireland is now my World Championship. It's a great event in its own right, in a fantastic arena and hopefully I can have a run here."

Holt will face Barry Pinches tomorrow. Anthony Hamilton, won through to the last 16 and will play world number two Mark Williams next.

Hamilton beat Leicester's Tom Ford 4-2 but was scathing about his own performance, three days after being another of the players to lose a World Championship qualifier.

Mark Davis saw off Joe Jogia 4-0 to set up a meeting with Stephen Lee.