Ronnie O’Sullivan knocked out defending champion Ding Junhui in the opening match of the 2012 Masters at Alexandra Palace.
‘The Rocket’ appeared to be in control of proceedings when he marched into a 4-1 lead but his Chinese opponent didn’t lift the trophy last year by fluke and battled back to tie the match up.
However, four-time Masters champion O’Sullivan regained his composure to seal the last two frames for a 6-4 triumph and advance to a potential meeting with young hotshot Judd Trump in the quarter-finals.
In an entertaining match that launched the new venue for the prestigious invitational event, the 36 year-old looked at home in front of a huge boisterous London crowd.
O’Sullivan has shown a great deal of improvement in his temperament this season and that was reflected in how he completed victory with a brilliant 125 century break.
Indeed, the former world number one admitted afterwards that he still wants to play snooker but wants to find a balance between work and his children with son Ronnie Jnr and daughter Lilly Jo at the arena to cheer their dad on.
Stuart Bingham will have a lot to say about things but the prospect of a third meeting between O’Sullivan and Trump in as many months, and on such an important stage, is mouth-watering.
Whoever is the opponent, one suspects it will take a lot to beat Ronnie this week as he makes a determined push to be in the winner’s enclosure once again.
In the evening encounter, Mark Williams almost squandered what appeared to be a comfortable advantage over Stephen Maguire before eventually falling over the line 6-4.
The Welshman raced into a 4-0 lead before the mid-session interval and was approaching his “float mode” standard of play as his opponent failed to reach second gear.
Scotsman Maguire came back strongly to win four out of the next five frames and get back to within one and memories of the last 13 months must have been creeping into Williams’ mindset having been on the receiving end of spirited comebacks on a number of occasions in that period.
But the two-time champion held his nerve in the tenth frame to assure his progress into the last eight, where he will meet either Neil Robertson or Mark Allen.
A great opening day then to the 2012 Masters in what promises to be one of the most exciting events of the season.