The long road back to the Crucible is finally over for an emotional Jamie Jones after qualifying for the World Snooker Championships in Sheffield, writes Ross Lawson.
Jones had resigned himself to never playing again having fallen off the tour at the end of the 2019 season following a ban for failing to report a corrupt approach, although he was cleared of match-fixing.
But eight months on from regaining his place on the circuit, the Welshman is back doing what he does best.
An epic qualifying campaign saw Neath’s Jones come through three rounds at the English Institute of Sport, with his prize for perseverance a first-round tie with Scotland’s Stephen Maguire.
"I had resigned myself to never playing again, but when Q-School was getting closer I thought, I'm no good at anything else, so I might as well give it a go,” said Jones, who faces Maguire on Saturday, live on Eurosport.
"I thought I would take a year or two, but I got to the semi-finals of the Scottish Open, and did OK at the UK Championship, and now I've got to the Crucible.
“At the start of the year, I would have taken earning a few quid and getting back on my feet.
"Starting at the bottom again, the road back just seemed so long, but I just took one step at a time.
“My attitude is a lot more laid-back, and I'm playing with freedom, which is something I've been trying to do for 15 years. I feel like I can still be a match for anyone out there."
Jones reached the quarter-finals in his inaugural appearance in 2013 but even he felt a repeat of those performances were far out of reach.
That was despite enjoying plenty of positives in his first season back, reaching the last four of the Scottish Open and the UK Championship fourth round.
That turned corner continued in the biggest event of the snooker season, beating David Lilley, Michael Holt and Li Hang to return to the upper echelons of the sport.
"Every road is long if you want to be successful but it's just one step at a time,” he added.
"I'm trying to really enjoying these experiences a lot more. These are the days I was missing when I wasn't playing, so as tough as it is with the nerves, you have to enjoy it.
"I've been doing a lot of running, been in my own world a lot and doing my own thing.
"My mental health was suffering a bit – I've qualified and you'd think now I'd be crying, but I feel alright today.
“Put anyone in my position and they’re going to suffer. But I feel better for the suffering, in a way, because I made the right choices when I was suffering.
"I could have drowned myself in beer at the pub and moaned about it for the rest of my life but I took actions, I wanted to improve myself, my snooker, everything really. I’m proud of myself.”
Watch the World Snooker Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from April 17- May 3