Stephen Hendry is set to come out of retirement while Steve Davis has received a career lifeline after Barry Hearn, the World Snooker chairman, offered the veterans a unique route back on to the professional tour.

The pair will not be handed full two-year tour cards, but seven-time world champion Hendry, who retired two years ago, and six-time winner Davis are set to play at a number of tournaments next season. They could even be back at the Crucible in 12 months' time. "I went for friendship as well, and loyalty. I don't know if I'm guilty of that but, if I am, I plead guilty as well," said Hearn. "Stephen, I understand, is getting quite serious about playing so we'll have to see what form he brings to the table and how often he wants to play."

Up to four senior players will be invited back to the tour.

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The third invitation will go to Jimmy White if he falls off tour, which he will if Ding Junhui's conqueror Michael Wasley reaches the World Championship quarter-finals.