The Northern Irishman previously reached the final of the competition in 2013.
Mark Allen compiled a marvellous 142 total clearance on Thursday to break the record for the highest break in Snooker Shoot Out history.
The 34 year-old’s slick turn came during his first-round fixture against Jimmy Robertson, as proceedings in the quick-fire tournament got under way at the Marshall Arena.
The excellent contribution eclipses the previous record of 139 that was made when Thepchaiya Un-Nooh became the Snooker Shoot Out king in 2019.
Allen advances to the second round for the first time since 2016 but will have to wait to see which opponent he draws next.
At 14/1, the former Masters champion is currently one of the Bet88 favourites for glory this year, although odds don’t count for too much in this unpredictable event.
Elsewhere, Mark Selby reached the last 64 with a much tighter 41-31 success against Billy Joe Castle, while defending champion Michael Holt eased through with an 87 break against Jamie Jones.
As usual, there were several close encounters where the outcomes where decided near the final buzzer.
Sam Craigie won a dramatic blue-ball respot after the Englishman finished level on points with Phil O’Kane – one of the many amateur top-ups competing in this week’s ranking event.
Matthew Stevens prevailed on the final black with seconds to spare against Fergal Quinn, and there were narrow victories for last year’s runner-up Zhou Yuelong and top-16 member David Gilbert.
Among the others to advance on the opening day of action were Shaun Murphy, Mark Williams, Liang Wenbo, and Ken Doherty.
Five of the amateur top-ups, with many drafted in at the last minute following a wave of withdrawals, also reached the second round – including former champion Michael White.
The first round will conclude on Friday with the likes of John Higgins, Jack Lisowski, and Jimmy White set to take part.
Click here to view the full draw (scheduled times in CET)
What is the Snooker Shoot Out?
Each match lasts only one ten-minute frame, with a 15-second shot clock in operation for the first five minutes and a 10-second shot clock required for the remaining time.
Players lag to determine who breaks off, every shot must result in a ball hitting a cushion or being potted, and there is ball-in-hand for any foul committed.
A permanent fixture on the Main Tour schedule since 2011, no current top-16 player has ever emerged as the winner.
Mark Selby is the current Betway88 favourite for glory at 12/1, but in reality almost every player in the draw is in with a shot at glory.
How to Watch
Live coverage will be available in Ireland, the UK, and across Europe via Eurosport.
Other options are available for viewers around the world, which you can view by clicking here.
As has become the norm this season, the tournament in Milton Keynes will be staged behind closed doors.
Featured photo credit: WST