Defending champion Judd Trump impressed in his opening round 4-1 victory over Mark Williams in the World Grand Prix on Wednesday.
The Englishman knocked in runs of 60, 71 and 122 as he comfortably saw off the home favourite to continue his good run of form recently which also earned him a third Championship League triumph.
Having seen three of his main rivals – Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby – all stumble at the first hurdle, Trump will be hoping to seize the opportunity and add another big title to his growing collection.
The 26 year-old will take on Stuart Bingham for a quarter-final berth after the struggling world champion dispatched of a poor David Gilbert 4-1.
Bingham started badly and it looked as though he might be in for another damaging defeat in the run up to his Crucible defence, but his challenger never really turned up despite claiming the opening frame.
Bingham will need to play much better, though, if he is to dismantle Trump’s charge, although the continued short best of seven format could work in the 39 year-old’s favour.
Selby, meanwhile, suffered a 4-2 defeat to Tom Ford as he failed to reach the latter stages in Llandudno for a second successive season.
The defeat could be seen as a potential opening for Ali Carter, who will now face Ford instead of the world no.1 following a 4-1 victory over the in-form Luca Brecel.
Elsewhere, Shaun Murphy and Liang Wenbo enjoyed comprehensive wins over Michael White and Graeme Dott respectively.
Liang’s reward is a meeting with Michael Holt, an encounter he’ll surely prefer over the potential Ronnie O’Sullivan affair that was quashed thanks to the latter’s unexpected loss to the ‘Hitman’ on Tuesday.
China’s Liang is hoping to consolidate a top 16 place before the conclusion of the China Open in order to gain automatic qualification for the campaign-concluding World Championship.
Kyren Wilson, another player hoping to jump into that elite bracket in time for the Crucible, also enjoyed an early victory as he edged past home hope Jamie Jones 4-2.
Meanwhile, Marco Fu endured a surprise defeat at the hands of Thepchaiya Un-Nooh with the Thai prevailing in a tense decider on the black.
Thursday will see all of the second round completed as the eight quarter-finalists are determined in Wales.