David Gilbert advanced from Group 16 in the Championship League on Wednesday at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.
The Englishman won his maiden ranking title at this event last year, and he reached Stage Two in 2022 thanks to an unbeaten record from his round-robin.
After 3-0 victories over Florian Nuessle and Zak Surety, Gilbert only needed to win a frame against final opponent Joe O’Connor to safeguard top spot.
The Englishman secured that in the second frame and scored a 2-2 tie to finish with seven points – one clear of Nuessle.
Group 19 meanwhile, was reduced to just three players after Jimmy White was forced to withdraw due to travel problems.
It altered the format a touch, with each player facing off against the other twice rather than once.
New father Jordan Brown dominated with three wins and a draw to end the day with ten points, compiling a brace of tons in the process.
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Both Gilbert and Brown will return to the competition next week when Stage Two of the Championship League finally commences.
After four weeks of an elongated format, Stage One concludes on Thursday with the last two groups from the initial phase.
In Group 8, Jack Lisowski starts his 2022/23 snooker season in a quartet that also includes Michael White, Mark Joyce, and rookie Julien Leclercq.
Mark Allen is the seeded contender in Group 12, with the Northern Irishman participating alongside Stuart Carrington, Jenson Kendrick, and Himanshu Jain.
Live coverage is available on FreeSports and Matchroom.Live in the UK and Ireland, and by various other means around the world.
Click here to view the draw (times: CET)
Featured photo credit: WST