Defending champion Mark Williams is out of the Northern Ireland Open after a scrappy 4-3 defeat to Ali Carter at the Waterfront Hall on Wednesday.
The Welshman captured a first ranking title in almost seven years when he edged Yan Bingtao in a dramatic final twelve months ago, a victory that sparked a sustained period of success that culminated in a third World Championship crown at the Crucible in May.
However, Carter was able to take advantage of a below-par performance to move into the last 32 and maintain his chances of breaking into the top 16 in the world rankings list in time for the Masters this winter.
The Englishman, who boasted only one break above 50 himself, is in 18th place in the Race to the Masters standings but a big week here or in York for the upcoming UK Championship could still see him gain one of the prestigious invitations.
After an opening round that saw numerous seeded casualties, several of the other heavy hitters safely negotiated the second hurdle and progressed to the next stage.
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump, no strangers to making outspoken comments recently, both averaged less than 15 seconds per shot in dismantling the challenges of Mei Xiwen and Stuart Carrington respectively.
Trump’s win, which came a day after he poured fuel on his growing rivalry with Kyren Wilson by questioning what his countryman has won in the game to merit being referenced as the best up-and-coming Englishman in the game at present, featured breaks of 137, 69, 55, 53, and 51 as he hammered Carrington 4-0.
‘People are saying that Kyren’s the next up-and-coming star but he’s nearly my age and he’s won nowhere near what I’ve won!’@judd147t has had his say following his defeat to @KyrenWilson recently. pic.twitter.com/K79F23H2r1
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) November 13, 2018
World number one Mark Selby’s outing was also comfortable as he compiled a brace of century breaks in ousting recent European Masters champion Jimmy Robertson with a whitewash win.
It was harder for Neil Robertson, though, as for the second round in succession the Australian launched a gritty fight back from behind, on this occasion trailing Kurt Maflin by three frames only to prevail with a 4-3 scoreline by making a superb 125 in the decider.
In another hectic day at the Waterfront Hall, Jack Lisowski set up an intriguing meeting with close pal Trump after holding off Liam Highfield for a 4-3 triumph.
Lisowski, arguably the most consistent competitor of the campaign so far with a lot of runs to the business end of tournaments, has played Trump twice in the last month with one victory apiece.
Meanwhile, Joe Swail gave the home support something to cheer about as he beat fellow veteran Nigel Bond 4-2 but Gerard Greene went down to a resurgent Matthew Stevens 4-1.
Some of the other notable results included Michael Holt’s 4-3 clincher against 2016 champion Mark King, while Ryan Day and David Gilbert inflicted respective losses on Chinese duo Zhang Anda and Chen Zifan.
Elsewhere, English Open runner-up Mark Davis continued his impressive form in this season’s Home Nations series by defeating Luo Honghao and Andrew Higginson edged another young talent from China in Yuan Sijun.
It wasn’t all bad for the Asian contingent, though, with Zhou Yuelong, Xiao Guodong, and Lu Ning advancing for China, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh of Thailand beating Ross Muir, and Pakistan’s Hamza Akbar reaching the last 32 of a ranking event for only the second time.
The 25 year-old’s reward for overcoming Alexander Ursenbacher? A date with three-time world champion Mark Selby.
On Thursday the 32 players who are still in the hunt for gory this Sunday will be whittled down to the tournament’s last eight contenders.