Steve Davis could be spared relegation from snooker's professional tour after the sport's business supremo Barry Hearn revealed the veteran may be offered a tour wild card.
The six-time world champion lost early in qualifying for this year's World Championship, which begins on Saturday, and fell outside the top 64 in the money list, meaning he is due to drop out of the paid ranks.
Davis has vowed to win back his place, initially via the qualifying school next month when tour cards are up for grabs.
But Hearn, who has always insisted snooker should be a meritocracy under his reign as World Snooker chairman, could authorise a move to give Davis an exemption.
Jimmy White, who also failed to qualify for the World Championship, could join Davis in dropping out of the top 64, depending on results of others at the Crucible. He too could be handed a wild card.
Hearn said on BBC Radio Five Live: "It's a tough call because you don't want to make a precedent. Steve's my best mate so straight away I can't vote, I'm biased, but at the same time Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, who knows Jimmy White might lose their tour card."
He added: "It's a tough call, it represents a 360-degree turn in my normal decision-making process. But I've got to be flexible when common sense comes into play and it's causing me sleepless nights."
Hendry retired in 2012 and has dismissed suggestions he could be drawn back.
Hearn has been a long-time ally and agent of Davis, and suggested others would have to make the call on whether the 56-year-old is invited back.
"Sometimes there are exceptional circumstances and you have to make exceptional decisions," Hearn said. "I think it's something Steve has to think about - what does he want out of his life? Does it involve playing snooker? Does he want to go through Q School?"
Protecting veteran players goes against the Hearn manifesto that players must earn their place on tour, and it would be perceived by many as a move founded in nostalgia should the likes of Davis and White, no longer able to keep up with the sport's young guns, be given special treatment.
Hearn said: "The one thing you can say about Davis and White is you can't question their honesty and their absolute love for the game of snooker.
"They want to play and they do bring a certain gravitas to the situation. It's a very difficult call and something I'm going to be thinking about over the next few days to see if I've opened a can of worms or whether it would be wrong of me not to repay those players' loyalty to the game by making an exception."