Mark Selby and Stephen Maguire comfortably won their first round encounters as the World Snooker Championship got under way on Saturday in Sheffield.
The pair recorded comprehensive 10-2 triumphs over Fergal O’Brien and Anthony McGill respectively.
At one stage, Selby led O’Brien 8-0 and it looked as though only the second ever Crucible whitewash might be on the cards.
The Irishman emerged from two gruelling encounters in qualifying which went the distance at Ponds Forge and appeared to have nothing left in the tank, but managed to avoid setting another record after his marathon frame effort on Wednesday night.
Reigning champion Selby wasn’t anywhere near his best but he didn’t have to be as O’Brien’s unusually dreadful tactical play gifted the 34 year-old the chances he required to advance with ease.
Selby, who could move into sixth place on his own in the all-time World Championship winners’ list on three if he successfully defends his crown in a fortnight, plays either Ryan Day or Xiao Guodong in the last 16.
Maguire enjoyed a similarly straightforward triumph, winning the last eight frames for a convincing rout of his fellow Scot McGill.
The two-time former semi-finalist, a loser in the last 32 in each of the last four editions of the World Championship, actually looked like he was going to suffer one of his infamous implosions when he struggled early on – visibly tempering his fragile emotions.
Thankfully for Maguire, McGill missed even more balls, which allowed the 36 year-old to find his way into the contest.
In a seven frame stretch from 2-2 to 9-2, Maguire scored 547 points to the answer of just one from his hapless opponent.
Maguire could face favourite Judd Trump in the next round and it’ll be interesting to see what confidence the former world number two has garnered after finally breaking his duck of first round World Championship defeats.
Meanwhile, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Kyren Wilson let potentially big overnight leads slip from within their grasps as they established 5-4 advantages from their opening sessions with a pair of Wilsons.
O’Sullivan looked to be heading for a commanding cushion when he won a re-spotted black to move 5-1 up on Gary Wilson, but lost the next three, including the last frame when his challenger needed snookers.
Wilson likewise led 5-2 but Grace, one of five debutants this year along with Gary Wilson, fought back to win the last two frames and keep the former Shanghai Masters champion in check.
Those two matches reach their conclusions on Sunday while four other first round ties also commence.
Shaun Murphy meets Yan Bingtao in one of the clashes of the opening stage, while Stuart Bingham and Peter Ebdon face each other in a battle of two former world champions.
In the evening, Luca Brecel returns to the Crucible for a second time to play Marco Fu and Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen entertains Jimmy Robertson.
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