Ronnie O’Sullivan recovered from a slow start to eventually reach the fourth round of the first Players Tour Championship event of the season with ease at The Academy in Sheffield.
The former world number one endured a nightmare season last year, a lot of which was down to his own making as he withdrew from several tournaments including most of the PTC series.
However, ‘The Rocket’ seemed to be in slightly better spirits toward the end of the last campaign having been in contact with a sports psychologist and began 2011/12 in fine form despite an early wobble.
Veteran Mike Hallett came through two qualifying rounds to book a meeting with O’Sullivan – the first time the pair had met since 1995 – and took the opening two frames to set up an unlikely upset.
O’Sullivan, though, dug deep and, despite not firing on all cylinders, carved out a 4-2 victory before turning up the gas against Andy Hicks and Bjorn Haneveer in the following rounds.
The story of the day, though, was the defeat of John Higgins by Thailand’s Dechawat Poomjaeng.
World champion Higgins seemed to be cruising to a comfortable early success only for his unheralded opponent to come from 3-1 behind to win 4-3.
Higgins only lost two matches last season that carried ranking points and, despite the relative minor nature of a single PTC event, the Scot will not be pleased at his start to the campaign.
Meanwhile, Judd Trump, who lost to Higgins in the final of the World Championship suffered a 4-1 defeat to Q-School victor David Gilbert.
Judging on his Twitter updates, Trump has been enjoying himself since his emergence into more widespread stardom and it appears unlikely that he has had much time to practice.
Yet, the China Open champion will have to begin doing so because there are a host of players, professional and amateur alike, who are eager to perform well in the early part of the season and, in particular, the PTC series.
Two of those amateurs, Gary Wilson and Eden Sharav, meet in the last 32 with the latter dropping only one frame on route against Adam Duffy and, more impressively, Liang Wenbo.
Gilbert himself appears to be in superb form and reaping the benefits of the confidence boost he earned from claiming a Main Tour spot from qualifying school.
The Englishman followed his victory over Trump with equally impressive wins against Jamie Cope and Jimmy White.
‘The Whirlwind’ had earlier enjoyed two exhausting 4-3 deciding frame wins against Ireland’s David Morris and fellow stalwart Alan McManus but could not prevent Gilbert in a late night clash.
In other notable runs, Stephen Maguire and Stuart Bingham progressed to the last 16.
As I write this the clock ticks past 12am and there are still many matches still in progress which is a little ridiculous.
Only 8 tables are in use at The Academy, with the format using a rolling system of one match finishes and another starts, but it is clear that with so many participants at least 10 tables, if not 12, are needed for an event of this capacity.
Tomorrow, the top half of the draw begins the mini-marathon. Results and latest scores can be sources at www.snooker.org