Mark Selby compiled two century breaks but was made to work extremely hard for his 4-3 victory over Mei Xiwen in the European Masters qualifying round on Friday.
The three-time world champion began and ended the match with tons, breaks of 118 and a timely 102 in the seventh frame finally sealing the triumph, but his Chinese opponent fought gallantly to stay in the contest and almost conjure an upset.
Selby, though, who for the first time in a couple of years is consigned to the qualifying cubicles after losing his Crucible crown in May – with the world champion’s encounters generally held over to the main venue – managed to advance in style at the game’s climax.
Riga Masters champion Neil Robertson was made to work just as hard as he was taken the distance too by Dominic Dale, ultimately prevailing in a tense final frame shoot out to progress to the last 64 in Belgium.
John Higgins was a much more comprehensive winner as he allowed Chen Feilong only 26 points in a 4-0 whitewash display.
On a day when all of the marquee names made it through to October’s main event, Kyren Wilson and Ryan Day recorded 4-2 scorelines against Basem Eltehhan and Hamza Akbar respectively, while former ranking event winners Joe Perry and Anthony Hamilton scored well in 4-0 drubbings of Sean O’Sullivan and Robin Hull.
David Gilbert, still reeling from his painful defeat to Mark Williams in the final of last week’s World Open, continued his positive response by following up a victory in the Indian Open preliminaries with another in the European Masters this week.
The 37 year-old Englishman took the last two frames with runs of 60 and 52 for a tight 4-3 success over Robbie Williams.
There were no huge upsets really, although Michael Holt fell 4-2 to Zhang Jiankang and Tom Ford’s superior ranking meant little in his loss by the same margin to another Chinese cueist, Tian Pengfei.
Shoot Out champion Michael Georgiou had few problems in seeing off legend Jimmy White, who hasn’t had a strong start to this new campaign, and Marco Fu continued his revival since returning from an eye injury with a 4-1 defeat of Nigel Bond.
Elsewhere, father and son duo Peter and Oliver Lines both advanced beyond the qualifiers for the second straight occasion at the Guild Hall, courtesy of a pair of 4-2 wins against Billy Joe Castle and Matthew Selt respectively.
Selt compiled an event-high run of 142, a total clearance, but it was only good enough to win him a single frame.
Meanwhile, young Chinese potential Yan Bingtao overcame Chen Zifan while countrymen Luo Honghao, Zhang Anda, and Li Hang all made it through to Lommel, which will host this tournament for the second year in a row.
Among some of the other names to book the tickets were international players Hossein Vafaei, Alexander Ursenbacher, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, and Thor Chuan Leong.
The second half of the field will be whittled down on Saturday as the action continues in Preston.