Judd Trump and Ding Junhui eased into the second round of the Players Championship after respective 4-1 victories over Martin Gould and David Gilbert in Manchester.
Ding, buoyed by a return to form of late which saw him feature in the last four of the World Grand Prix, comfortably beat Gilbert with a high break of 104 to aid his chances of staying inside the top 16 in the world rankings.
The Chinese is currently just outside the bracket provisionally, which would result in him having to qualify for the Crucible, but stands less than £1,000 short of countryman Liang Wenbo’s tally in 16th place.
With the latter exiting the event in the opening round to Shaun Murphy on Tuesday, Ding will have a great chance to gain a crucial advantage with just the China Open to come before the seedings are revised for the World Championship.
Ding looked in a focused mood and it is interesting that he is beginning to produce what we all know he can at this time of the campaign.
Usually, his form dips as Sheffield approaches but perhaps this will be his year to make a serious stab at lifting a maiden world title.
With full World Championship snooker coverage at Coral, you can get a useful price of 22/1 for the eleven-time ranking event winner.
Of course, he’ll first be seeking to do as well as possible at Event City this week but, though off to a strong start, will face another difficult challenge in the last 16 as he prepares to play Michael White.
The Welshman won four frames on the trot to come from 2-0 down against Belgium’s Luca Brecel and prevail 4-2.
Murphy, meanwhile, again looked confident as he looks to build on his success in the recent World Grand Prix in Llandudno.
Elsewhere, Trump had few worries in his three-frame triumph over Gould, despite the German Masters champion compiling a tournament-high 135 in the fourth frame.
Trump has been up and down this campaign and one senses a couple of potential tournament wins got away from him somewhat, but he’s still displaying the kind of form in general to suggest that he could end the season on a special high.
Ali Carter will be the 26 year-old’s next opponent after another 4-1 success, this time over Scotland’s Graeme Dott.
Mike Dunn also prevailed by the same margin in his victory over Rory McLeod, but there were two dramatic deciders as well.
Marco Fu and Alan McManus traded six breaks above 50 to make it 3-3 before a tense tussle in the last ensued.
Fu had the Scot in a snooker’s required stage with only pink and black remaining only to see ‘Angles’ orchestrate the miss needed to get back in touching distance.
However, after a prolonged tactical exchange Fu finally sank the pink to advance, while Ben Woollaston also got the better of Jimmy Robertson in a nervy seventh frame too.
Wednesday will see the remaining eight first round ties completed with the likes of Mark Williams, Mark Allen and Barry Hawkins entering the fold.
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