Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham were among the winners as the final event of the Home Nations series began on Monday with the opening day of the Welsh Open in Cardiff.
The World Grand Prix had been just a few short hours old as play in the third longest running ranking event on the calendar commenced at the Motorpoint Arena.
The Welsh Open follows a similar guise to the other Home Nations competitions previously staged this season in England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, in that the full field of professionals battle it out over seven rounds for the £70,000 jackpot.
Bingham made his return as the defending champion with a straightforward 4-1 success against Chen Zhe that included a 118 and two further breaks above 60.
The Englishman, who missed three months either side of the New Year due to a ban for betting, is among a number of top 16 players in the official world rankings who currently lie outside the 16 provisional spots that will be given to the campaign’s best money-earners at the lucrative Players Championship next month.
The Welsh Open and next week’s Gibraltar Open are the final two tournaments that will count towards those earnings with fellow Englishmen Barry Hawkins and Ali Carter also outside the cut-off point for Llandudno as it stands.
Hawkins repeated the 4-1 scoreline against another Chinese challenge in Niu Chuang while former Welsh Open champion Carter went one better with a whitewash drubbing of Rhys Clark.
World number one Selby, meanwhile, compiled the tournament’s highest break so far with a superb 143 total clearance helping him to a 4-2 triumph against Christopher Keogan.
The world champion has failed to emerge triumphantly from a ranking event since early November but Selby is the 4/1 second favourite behind Ronnie O’Sullivan in the snooker betting outright odds for the Welsh Open this week.
All in all, it was a relatively routine day for the majority of the marquee names with home hopeful Ryan Day the biggest casualty after his unexpected demise at the hands of Kurt Dunham – the Australian recording only his fourth win of the season.
There were contrasting victories for Ding Junhui and Judd Trump with the former brilliantly bouncing back from his defeat to O’Sullivan in the World Grand Prix final the night before with a 4-0 rout of Hammad Miah.
Trump was made to work a lot harder for his success as the world number three held off a spirited fightback from Duane Jones to prevail in a nervy decider.
Masters champion Mark Allen was also tested before emerging with a 4-2 triumph over Cao Yupeng while 2007 Welsh winner Neil Robertson scored a break of 88 in beating Mark Davis 4-1.
Talented teenager Yan Bingtao, who narrowly missed out on a maiden ranking title at the Northern Ireland Open in Belfast late last year, superbly came from behind with breaks of 80, 69, 58, and 110 to deny Jimmy White in a decider while countryman Fang Xiongman and veteran Anthony Hamilton were also taken the distance before advancing to the second round.
Amateur Jackson Page continued his love affair with his home tournament as he edged Sean O’Sullivan 4-3 to move to within a round of matching his standout performance from last year when he reached the last 32.
Welsh trio Dominic Dale, Daniel Wells, and Ian Preece gave the local support more to cheer for with victories against Chris Totten, Lee Walker, and Zhao Xintong respectively.
Among some of the other cueists to progress were former world champions Graeme Dott and Peter Ebdon, as well as the likes of Ricky Walden, Michael Holt, and Tom Ford.
On Tuesday, the first round reaches its climax with Mark Williams, Shaun Murphy, and Luca Brecel in action while man of the moment O’Sullivan has been awarded a bye into the last 64 after the withdrawal of Robin Hull.