The Rocket has reached the final in each of the last three campaigns.
Ronnie O’Sullivan booked his place in the last 32 of the Northern Ireland Open with a routine 4-1 victory over Andy Hicks on Monday evening in Belfast.
The world number three compiled breaks of 90, 70, 65, and 54 in what turned out to be a comfortable enough outing at the Waterfront Hall.
O’Sullivan has finished as the Northern Ireland Open runner-up for the last three years, on each occasion losing by a narrow 9-7 margin to rival Judd Trump.
The 45 year-old didn’t win a single ranking title during the 2020/21 term despite reaching five finals, and he is still searching for a 38th career success of such status.
Elsewhere, the majority of the marquee names who were in action again on day three managed to emerge unscathed.
Mark Selby was arguably the most fortunate to advance, with the 2021 world champion and current world number one just about seeing off Cao Yupeng in a ding-dong battle on the final black.
Mark Williams, who raised the Alex Higgins Trophy aloft in 2017, was also taken the distance before outlasting Elliot Slessor in a low-scoring affair, while Yan Bingtao won the last three frames to deny Duane Jones with a 4-3 scoreline as well.
John Higgins compiled a brake of 113 in overcoming Farakh Ajaib 4-2, Kyren Wilson boasted a brace of tons as he dispatched Robert Milkins, and Luca Brecel came from 2-0 down to oust Liang Wenbo.
The highest-profile contender to crash out was Barry Hawkins, who suffered an unexpected 4-0 defeat to Mark King in what was a repeat of the Northern Ireland Open final in 2016.
Four-time ranking event winner Ali Carter was also beaten, losing 4-2 to Lyu Haotian in a result that damages his aspirations of breaking back into the top 16 in time for the Masters.
Among the others to progress through to the next round were Oliver Lines, Alfie Burden, Mitchell Mann, and amateur top-up James Cahill.
Shaun Murphy, meanwhile, completed the held over preliminary round matches with his 4-2 triumph over Bai Langning helping him into the first round proper.
On Tuesday, the round of 64 continues with Murphy, reigning champion Trump, and home favourite Mark Allen back in action.
Live coverage in Ireland and the UK continues on Eurosport and Quest TV.
Click here to view the draw (Times: CET)
Featured photo credit: WST