Dubliner Michael Judge qualified for the first ranking tournament semi-final of his career by knoching Joe Perry out of the Totesport Grand Prix by a 5-1 scoreline.

In doing so, he became the fourth player from the Republic to achieve such a feat after Eugene Hughes, Ken Doherty and Fergal O'Brien.

The world number 42, whose high spot was a fourth frame century break which gave him a 3-1 interval lead, said:  That's the best I've played in the tournament.

"I didn't even play as well as that when I beat Mark Williams in the first round, so I'm delighted.

"Hopefully I can keep on improving and who knows what might happen?

"I have nothing to lose and the pressure is on all the other guys," added Judge, who was relieved to see Perry suffer an unlucky in-off on the last black after he had earlier missed a pink for the match.

Preston professional Ian McCulloch's dream of winning in his home city moved a step closer to reality this evening.

McCulloch will face Judge tomorrow for a place in Sunday's best-of-17-frames final at the Guild Hall - just a five minute drive from his home.

He followed up victories over Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry by defeating 23-year-old Scot Stephen Maguire 5-2.

Maguire may not be a household name like White and Hendry but he did capture the European Open title last March - an achievement McCulloch is desperate to emulate in the next 48 hours.

The world number 17 said: "If I won a ranking tournament here it would be like my world championship."

McCulloch, like Judge, is guaranteed £15,000 for reaching the penultimate round of snooker's first major event of the new season.

His latest success included a 137 clearance to lead 4-1 but he also added runs of 81, 73 and a decisive 55 in frame seven when the nerves began to show.

Filed by Barry McEneaney