in the first round
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Ding Junhui Loses in the First Round

Ding Junhui’s suspect run of form continued with a 4-2 loss to David Lilley in the first round of the Northern Ireland Open on Monday.

The Chinese star, battling to keep his top 16 membership in time to gain an invite to this season’s prestigious Masters, couldn’t recover after falling 3-0 behind.

At 44 years old, it marks Lilley’s first victory in his rookie campaign as a professional player.

To the Englishman’s credit, he scored well with runs of 96, 84, 82, and 71 to his name.

But it prolongs a terrible spell on the Main Tour for Ding, who hasn’t contested the business end of a ranking event for pushing two years.

Another upset on the opening day saw David Gilbert lose out in a deciding frame to Anthony Hamilton.

Gilbert, who was the runner-up in the first Home Nations event of the season at the English Open, recovered from a 2-0 deficit to lead 3-2, but Hamilton won the last two frames for victory.

English Open champion Mark Selby avoided a similar fate as he maintained his quest for an unlikely £1 million pound bonus.

The former world number one could land the jackpot if he manages the unlikely feat of claiming all four Home Nations crowns and he came from behind to edge Xu Si 4-2.

John Higgins recorded a similar scoreline against Chang Bingyu while 2016 runner-up Barry Hawkins squeezed beyond Eden Sharav 4-3.

It was a lot easier for Shaun Murphy, with the “Magician” compiling three half century contributions in hammering Fraser Patrick 4-0.

In a busy day of action at the Waterfront Hall, Riga Masters champion Yan Bingtao beat Andy Hicks, World Cup winner Stephen Maguire thumped amateur Declan Lavery, and World Open runner-up Thepchaiya Un-Nooh overcame former Northern Ireland Open champion Mark King.

Several well-known cueists and former members of the top 16 managed to emerge unscathed in the first round too.

Ali Carter, ranked 17th and in line to displace Ding in the top 16 ahead of the Alexandra Palace in January, ousted Robert Milkins and was joined in the second round by Marco Fu, Luca Brecel, Matthew Stevens, and Mark Davis.

A number of the Chinese contingent advanced, including Li Hang, Mei Xiwen, Zhang Anda, and Tian Pengfei.

Among some of the others to remain in the competition were Dublin’s Ken Doherty, as well as home hopeful Jordan Brown.

Live coverage continues on Eurosport and Quest TV.

Click here to view the draw (Times: CET)

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