Ding Junhui began the China Championship with a 5-3 victory over Lee Walker in his held over qualifying round tie in Guangzhou on Monday.
The home favourite delighted his fans to overcome the Welshman for the first time in his career despite only knocking in a couple of breaks over 50.
Walker, officially one of the slowest players on the circuit averaging in excess of 30 seconds per shot this season, had frustrated Ding twice before but, although he ran the Chinese number one close again, the latter held on for victory on this occasion to move into the last 64.
It was a busy day of action at the Tianhe Sports Centre as the fourth ranking event of the 2018/19 season got under way.
Completing the qualifying round action, defending champion Luca Brecel and world champion Mark Williams had no trouble in negotiating their opening tests with 5-1 and 5-0 respective triumphs over Joe O’Connor and Rod Lawler.
Williams is bidding for a fifth ranking title in just under a year while a slimmed down Brecel, who beat Shaun Murphy in last year’s final to record a maiden triumph at this level, will be hoping to rekindle his form after a difficult spell since.
Liang Wenbo won the last three frames to avoid what would have been a shock defeat to Alfie Burden, instead pipping the Englishman in a decider, while fellow Chinese player Chang Bingyu caused a major upset as the amateur outscored Jimmy Robertson for a 5-3 success.
Former world champion Graeme Dott, Stuart Carrington, and Mike Dunn were the others to progress having had their preliminary fixtures held over from Preston last month.
Meanwhile, there was plenty of action in the first round proper as well with the likes of former China Championship winner John Higgins and Australia’s Neil Robertson making it into the last 32.
Masters champion Mark Allen made a 101 in ousting Matthew Selt 5-1, Stuart Bingham edged veteran and Paul Hunter Classic runner-up Peter Ebdon 5-3, and the in-form Jack Lisowski matched that scoreline with a triumph over Kurt Maflin.
However, there were some interesting casualties as Stephen Maguire suffered a surprising 5-2 loss against fellow Scotsman Scott Donaldson and Ali Carter was dumped out by a strong display from Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien.
Carter constructed a wonderful 144 total clearance, the highest break of the tournament so far, but that was as good as it got for the “Captain” as he crashed out 5-1 to the Dubliner – who had a ton and breaks of 88 and 71 himself.
World Open finalist David Gilbert also exited despite establishing a seemingly commanding early 3-0 cushion over Hossein Vafaei, ultimately losing five frames on the spin to be denied by the talented young Iranian.
Elsewhere, Xiao Guodong scored well in pummelling Mark Davis 5-0 while Jamie Jones, by contrast, needed all nine frames to see off former German Masters champion Anthony Hamilton in a decider.
Jones’ fellow Welshman Michael White also went the full nine frames before losing out to Mei Xiwen while teenager Yuan Sijun beat Swiss star Alexander Ursenbacher 5-2.
Among the other names to move forward to the next stage were Mark King, Joe Perry, and Tom Ford.