John Higgins beat Liang Wenbo 10-9 to complete what will surely be remembered as the best opening day of the World Championship ever.
In a day dominated by two legendary Scotsmen of snooker, Higgins came from 8-6 behind to snatch victory against his Chinese opponent after countryman Stephen Hendry had earlier fired in a maximum 147.
Higgins was by no means in good form, indeed he played rather poorly throughout the entire encounter, but knuckled down and did what he does best – win.
It looked for all money that Liang was going to run away to a shock triumph over the defending champion when he reeled off four frames to take an 8-6 advantage but Higgins found his game face from somewhere.
The four-time champion compiled a superb 133 total clearance to get it back to within one and levelled again after his opponent missed a straight forward yellow off the spot.
The next two frames were shared and, after both had chances in amongst the balls in the decider, Liang missed a tricky double on the penultimate red, stuck it up and Higgins cleared for a gutsy victory.
Clearly delighted to still be in this year’s tournament, it is hard to fully rule out Higgins embarking on another successful outing at the Crucible – even though his form is patchy at best.
What it means is that there will more than likely now be the mouth-watering prospect of a second round tie between himself and Hendry as the latter demolished Stuart Bingham 8-1 in their opening session.
The seven-time champion, and ultimate King of the Crucible, rolled back the years to produce a vintage display that included the memorable 147 – his third in Sheffield and eleventh overall.
It just goes to show how difficult it is to overcome proven winners even when they are not at their best or people are intent on writing them off time after time.
It was a bad day for Ireland’s Ken Doherty, though, who will go into his final session with Neil Robertson 7-2 down tomorrow.
In a battle of two former champions, Doherty had kept with the Australian in the first five frames – having a chance of a 147 himself only to miss the second last red – but failed to level at 3-3 and Robertson subsequently claimed the final four frames.
There was nothing much Doherty could have done by the end as Robertson found his potting boots and finished the session with three consecutive centuries.
In the other two fixtures, seeds Martin Gould and Mark Allen have work to do as both fell behind to qualifiers David Gilbert and Cao Yupeng – 6-3 and 5-4 respectively.
That said, Allen will feel the more confident of the pair in overturning the scoreline having won the final two frames of his session to trail by only one.
A cracking start to this year’s tournament and the best news is that there’s another 16 days to come.