Josh Boileau earned his second win of the season with a hard-fought and nervy victory over Mike Dunn at the Northern Ireland Open on Monday.
The Kildare cueist had only one other victory to his name in what is his rookie campaign on the Main Tour – a 4-2 victory over Jimmy White in the European Masters in September.
The European Under-21 amateur champion knocked in a 72 break in the opening frame against Dunn but subsequently was involved in a titanic tussle which went all the way down to the final colours in the decider.
The win sets up an unexpected meeting with Pakistan’s Hamza Akbar, who benefited from Ali Carter’s late withdrawal to reach the last 64.
Boileau will be hoping to also benefit from the home support generated by the first professional event staged on the island of Ireland since 2013, and first in Northern Ireland itself in eight years.
Dublin’s Fergal O’Brien also got in on the action with a 4-2 victory over Tian Pengfei, while Northern Ireland’s own Jordan Brown, an amateur invited to compete, produced an excellent performance in overcoming Ben Woollaston via the same scoreline.
Meanwhile, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan advanced to the second round with ease as neither suffered from any hangovers following their entertaining battle in the Champion of Champions final on Saturday.
Higgins compiled a 107 in his whitewash win over Paul Davison while the ‘Rocket’ boasted a brace of tons, including a tournament-high 133, in ousting Welshman David John.
O’Sullivan’s victory sets up a mouthwatering clash with fellow fan favourite Jimmy White, after the 54 year-old edged another Wales competitor in Gareth Allen 4-2.
All eyes will be on that grandstand encounter on Wednesday as two of the game’s most popular cuemen take centre stage once again.
Elsewhere, arguably the best display of the opening day came from Luca Brecel, who pummeled Shaun Murphy 4-0 with breaks of 117, two 83s and a 55.
The Belgian has largely struggled since reaching his maiden ranking event final at the German Masters in February but could be set to flourish again after a morale-boosting victory.
In other results, China’s young talent Zhou Yuelong prevailed in a decider with Matthew Stevens while Michael White downed Graeme Dott 4-0.
There were wins as well for the likes of Joe Perry, Barry Hawkins and Michael Holt.
Tuesday will see Liang Wenbo in action, the English Open champion who is the last man standing in the quest for the golden £1 million bonus should any player emerge with all four Home Nations series trophies.
Home favourite Mark Allen will similarly get his campaign under way against Mark Joyce, where there’s been no love lost between the pair after a feisty rivalry down through the years.