Ding Junhui emerged unscathed from his first test in qualifying for the World Championship after a 10-4 victory over Greg Casey in Sheffield.
Corkman Casey gained an invitation into the tournament off the back of his strong performances in 2015’s Q-School but many thought that he would be steamrollered against such a formidable opponent.
However,the 25 year-old gave a great account of himself which will no doubt give him confidence heading into this year’s Q-School in May.
Ding, though, showed his class when necessary and seven breaks above 50 helped him to victory and a safe passage into the penultimate round, where he’ll face Ross Muir.
The Chinese no.1 requires two more wins to ensure that he doesn’t miss out on the Crucible for the first time in a decade.
His countryman Liang Wenbo was also triumphant on a busy fourth day at Ponds Forge, easily beating Joe O’Connor 10-2, while Xiao Guodong, Zhang Anda, Zhou Yuelong and Cao Yupeng also advanced.
The latter enjoyed a 10-0 whitewash win over Latvia’s Rodion Judin.
Meanwhile, Irishman Fergal O’Brien had no cause for sentiment as he scored heavily in a 10-4 success over six-time champion Steve Davis.
After a year out of the game Davis was obviously rusty but still fought gallantly as he played in memory of his father, who passed away a couple of weeks ago.
Elsewhere, two-time beaten finalist Ali Carter easily beat Mateusz Baranowski 10-2 while Matthew Selt, Mark Davis and Dominic Dale booked their spots in round two as well.
Young Oliver Lines secured a 10-5 triumph over Lu Ning which will help his cause of a top 64 place in the rankings at the end of the campaign, while popular character Dechawat Poomjaeng and Robin Hull beat Eden Sharav and Barry Pinches respectively.
The likable Thai and Finn face each other next before a potential clash with Selt or Mitchell Mann at the last hurdle.
Finally, Englishmen Mark King, Jamie Cope, Alfie Burden, Mike Dunn and Martin O’Donnell all won while there was an excellent 10-9 triumph for Welsh amateur Jamie Clarke over Jamie Burnett.
The second round of qualifying gets under way on Sunday as players now begin to sense a trip to the Crucible may be within reach.