Andrew Higginson continued the streak of shock results in this year’s 2012 World Championship with a 10-6 victory over in-form Stephen Lee.
Lee had come into this event having reached the semi-finals or better in four of the last five ranking tournaments – reaching the final in the World Open and winning the PTC Grand Finals in Galway.
Pundits, here included, always maintained that Lee would probably not have the stamina to go the distance in Sheffield but it’s fair to say that most felt the Trowbridge potter would have enough to outplay countryman Higginson.
That said, former Welsh Open runner-up Higginson played excellently and kept his composure well towards the end to complete his maiden triumph at the Crucible, when often he has been labelled as a player that can struggle as the winning line approaches.
What it means is that segment of the draw is now wide open following debutant Jamie Jones defeat of 2005 champion Shaun Murphy yesterday.
Welshman Jones and Higginson will square-off for an unlikely place in the last 8, a unique opportunity to reach the business end of the biggest tournament of them all.
At that stage, their likely opponent will be pre-event bookies favourite Judd Trump but the UK champion has his work cut out against Dominic Dale – taking only a slender 5-4 lead into the second session.
In fact, it could have been worse for last year’s finalist, who came into this morning’s play suffering from food poisoning, as Dale missed a succession of chances to take an advantage of his own into tomorrow’s conclusion.
Elsewhere, the tie of the opening round materialised into somewhat of a damp squib as Ronnie O’Sullivan ran away to a 10-4 victory over Peter Ebdon.
Resuming 7-2 down, Ebdon had chances in each of the first four frames to reduce his arrears further but could only share the frames before the mid-session interval and the ‘Rocket’ duly completed the rout on resumption to march into the second round.
And three other surprise results could be on the cards as three seeds find themselves behind in their respective first sessions.
2006 champion Graeme Dott, in particular, is looking assured of an early trip back to Scotland after producing a desperate display against Joe Perry to trail 8-1.
Dott was uncharacteristically tame in his attitude, especially for someone who specifically gears himself up every year for the big one at the Worlds, and missed a barrage of pots to allow Perry in for a comfortable lead.
In the other two sessions, Ding Junhui and world no.1 Mark Selby are 5-4 and 6-3 down to Ryan Day and Barry Hawkins respectively.
So a spectacular opening to this year’s championship. I think everyone would have expected a few extra close encounters in this edition given the competitive nature of the Main Tour nowadays.
But I don’t think many would have predicted this amount of shock results and scorelines, and there are still a couple of days in the first round to go.