Waterville’s David Higgins suffered an agonising Q-School KO after a seven-man shootout at Sherry Golf in Spain.

The Kerry ace was battling to join Stage Two qualifiers Simon Thornton and Jonathan Caldwell in the race for 30 cards in this week’s Qualifying School Finals near Barcelona.

But he paid dearly for an untidy closing 75, slipping from a comfortable share of sixth into a seven-way tie for the last of 19 qualifying spots on three under par.

Darkness forced him to return to the course for an early morning play-off yesterday but the three-time Challenge Tour winner crashed out when Scotland’s Lloyd Saltman birdied the first extra hole from 10 feet.

A total of 309 players were battling for 79 places in this week’s six-round finals, but of the 18 Irish hopefuls only Royal County Down’s Thornton and former Walker Cup star Caldwell survived the Spanish inquisition.

The pair will join Ulstermen Michael Hoey and Michael McGeady, who were already qualified through their Challenge Tour ranking, in the battle for 30 tour cards later this week.

Thornton closed with a level par 72 to finish tied for eighth on three-under par at Arcos Gardens where Spain’s Santiago Luna led home the 21 qualifiers by five shots on 18 under par.

Caldwell, 24, finished in a five-way tie for 15th at Montenmedio after a final round of 71 as Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffe finished just one stroke outside the magical top 20 qualifiers after a closing 73.

Lurgan’s Gareth Shaw finished four strokes an eight-man play-off for the last of 19 spots at Costa Ballena, where former world amateur No 1 Jamie Moul tied for top spot with American Nathan Smith, France's Julien Grillon and Jordi Garcia Pinto of Spain.

Irish Club Professional champion John Kelly faded to tied 49th after a bright start while Justin Kehoe’s sizzling 65 came far too late.

How the Irish fared at Qualifying School Stage Two:

Costa Ballena (20 qualified) Non-qualifiers: Gareth Shaw T41, John Kelly T49, Justin Kehoe T52, Alan Murray T61.

Sherry Golf (19 qualified) Non-qualifiers: David Higgins T20, Colm Moriarty T33, Shane Lowry (am) T33, Eddie Barr T50, Noel Fox T67.

Arcos Gardens (21 qualified) Qualifiers: Simon Thornton T19. Non-qualifiers, Barrie Trainor T43, Mark Campbell T52, Mark Murphy T70.

Montenmedio (20 qualified) Qualifiers: Jonathan Caldwell T15. Non-qualifiers, Peter O’Keeffe T21, Richard Kilpatrick T43, Mark Staunton T70, D Sugrue cut.