Stephen Hendry and Neil Robertson both came through their first round matches unscathed with 10-4 victories at the World Championship in Sheffield.
Hendry had played superbly, compiling a maximum 147, in opening up an 8-1 advantage over Stuart Bingham yesterday but began this evening’s session poorly, dropping the opening three frames.
And Bingham had a golden opportunity to go into the mid-session interval only three behind but turned down a guilt-edged opportunity on the last red, played a poor resulting safety and Hendry cleared to stop the rot.
The Scotsman, relaxed again within one frame of his second round place, then hit a cool 96 break upon the game’s resumption to book a mouth-watering last 16 clash with countryman John Higgins.
Amazingly, the pair, with eleven world titles between them, have never met at the Crucible before which bodes well for an intriguing battle between two of the sport’s greatest players.
Robertson enjoyed a 7-2 lead over another former champion in Ireland’s Ken Doherty and, despite losing two of the first three frames, completed an easy triumph to send out a message to the rest of the field.
The 2010 champion has been in good form this season and is many people’s tip for a second title.
The Australian will play England’s David Gilbert for a quarter-final berth after the qualifier edged Martin Gould 10-8.
Gilbert had extended his 6-3 overnight cushion to 9-5 but his opponent reeled off three consecutive frames, aided by back-to-back century breaks, to put the pressure on.
However, Gilbert composed himself in the 18th frame, knocking in a pair of excellent long pots and subsequently fluked the final red to book his place in the second round for the first time in his career.
This time last year, Gilbert had fallen off the Main Tour but came fighting back through Q-School and has performed well on the circuit this season – forcing his way back into the world’s Top 64 in the rankings.
Another qualifier, China’s Cao Yupeng, caused the biggest shock, though, as he ousted former semi-finalist Mark Allen 10-6.
Debutant Cao reeled off a pair of centuries en route to a 9-5 lead but the 21 year-old appeared nervous as the winning line approached.
Thankfully, lady luck was on his side as, after Allen fired in a ton of his own to get back to 9-6, the Ulsterman potted the final black to seemingly win the frame only to see the cue ball travel around the angles and drop into the yellow pocket to gift the Chinese victory.
The encounter was marred afterwards when, in the post-match press conference, Allen insinuated that Cao had cheated by not calling a foul on himself in the 10th frame.
He continued his unbelievable accusations by suggesting Chinese players in general have shown traits of cheating in the past, naming Marco Fu and Liang Wenbo in particular.
Elsewhere, two other players making their debuts impressed on the centre stage as 17 year-old Luca Brecel more than held his own against established star Stephen Maguire, knocking in a 116 century break, but still trails 6-3.
Welshman Jamie Jones has even more of a chance of conjuring further upsets, though, as he stuck closer to 2005 champion Shaun Murphy and is only one adrift at 5-4.