Neil Robertson held off a spirited fight back from Mark Allen to prevail in the first round of the Tour Championship on Tuesday.
The defending champion raced into a seemingly insurmountable 7-0 lead during the opening session before Allen spared his own blushes by finally getting on the scoreboard in frame eight.
The majority of the evening session was completely different, however, with a refocused Allen intent on forcing his way back into the contest.
Lacking in scoring prowess, the Northern Ireland Open champion produced a strong tactical display to draw to within two at 6-8.
But Robertson’s attacking artillery eventually proved to be the difference, with the Australian adding to his three early century breaks with an additional brace of tons to finally wrap up the victory.
“I’m very proud, because Mark asked a lot of questions tonight,” 40 year-old Neil Robertson told the World Snooker Tour at the Venue Cymru.
“I had many answers – he just kind of had answers for my answers. His safety was incredible and shut me out.”
“I was trying to be aggressive with safeties and long potting whenever I could, but it felt like I hardly even attempted a long ball tonight.
“I couldn’t really get the balls open in a good way. He was playing a lot of thin safeties where he was snookering me a lot behind the baulk colours.
“He dominated the chances created. I went into the pack a few times and didn’t land on balls so had to play safe.
“A few frames went scrappy because of that, (but) tonight from 7-1 to 8-6 I think I missed only twice, so that goes to show you how well he dug in.
“The key is to be patient and don’t lose your cool. I didn’t really make any disastrous mistakes, and it wasn’t like I couldn’t get over the line.
“It’s easy enough to keep calm in those situations. I’m experienced enough to know that things can eventually turn around.
“The most important thing is you have to be ready if that unexpected mistake comes – he missed a tricky brown with the rest, but I had to pounce on that chance.
“The fact that I was asked a lot of questions and came up with the goods when it really mattered, that sends a lot of positive signals to me that I can withstand anything.
“I can put my foot down and run away with a match and I can also respond to when someone is coming back strong as well.
“This is one of the tournaments when, as soon as all the players start the season, they’re desperate to get into it.
“Only the top eight in the world on the one-year list, so even if you have a great season you still may not even get in it.
“It’s absolutely brutal. All the players here are in brilliant form as well, it’s a fantastic field again this year and I’m going to have to play really well to win.”
In the semi-final, Robertson will face either Ronnie O’Sullivan or Mark Williams, with the legendary pair first facing off against each other on Wednesday.
Live coverage in the UK is on ITV4, with other options available around the world that you can find by clicking here.
Tour Championship Draw
Zhao Xintong (1) 9-10 John Higgins (8)
Luca Brecel (5) vs Judd Trump (4)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) vs Mark Williams (6)
Mark Allen (7) 6-10 Neil Robertson (2)
Featured photo credit: WST