STUART Bingham has enjoyed a triumphant return to the snooker table.

The Basildon born 44-year-old took top spot in group one of the Championship League in Milton Keynes.

And Bingham was thrilled to make it through to the next round.

“Watching it all week, the winners usually had at least seven points so the way it is worked out is mad but I’m over the moon to get through,” Bingham told the World Snooker website.

“I was happy with my game, considering we haven’t played a competitive match for three or four months.

“I was a bit twitchy in some of the frames but all-in-all it’s a good day’s work.

“I’ve probably got a few more grey hairs now though!”

Bingham, who practises at Rayleigh Lanes Snooker Club, beat Welshman Jamie Clarke 3-0 in his opening match of the day.

However, Bingham let slip a two frame lead to draw 2-2 with Jordan Brown in his next outing and that set up a winner takes all encounter with Ricky Walden.

Walden had also beaten Clarke and drawn with Brown in his first games but breaks of 73 and 51 put Bingham 2-1 in front.

Walden hit back to win the final frame and make it 2-2 which meant him and Bingham both finished the group with five points.

However, 2015 World Champion Bingham’s 94 break against Brown was the highest either player made in the day and acted as a tiebreaker.

Bingham will now be placed into another group of four in snooker’s first tournament since the coronavirus pandemic.

All players and staff are tested prior to entering the venue and are kept in isolation until their results are known. Social distancing is also enforced throughout the games which are played behind closed doors.

And Matchroom Sport chairman Barry Hearn is delighted to have snooker back in action.

“During the challenging times of the past few weeks we have examined the opportunities which still exist and worked relentlessly towards the goal of getting our tour going again,” said Hearn.

“While most other sports remain sidelined, we are ready to return.

“This sends out a message to the sporting world that snooker is at the forefront of innovation.

“Our first priority has to be safety and we have had detailed discussions with government in creating a set of approved guidelines for the event which will be rigorously followed.

“It’s the first major sport to get back to live televised action. That’s not by chance, it’s because of the hard work and preparation we have done during the lockdown.”