Mark Allen gave himself a huge boost in his bid to ensure automatic qualification for this year’s World Championship after making an impressive start in the China Open.
The Masters winner needed to win his first round opening match against an in-form Noppon Saengham to have any chance of avoiding the World Championship qualifiers which starts next week.
And Allen, who won The Masters for the first time in January, recorded a 6-1 win against the recent Welsh Open semi-finalist.
But the Ulsterman still has work to do to ensure he doesn’t miss out on the Crucible.
To do that he must be placed in the top 16 in the latest provisional seedings come the end of the China Open. Currently he is in 16th spot but because the prize money is so lucrative in this year’s China Open, including a top prize of £225,000, he can’t be assured a spot at this early stage.
That’s because the likes of Stephen Maguire, Liang Wenbo, Joe Perry, Mark King and former world champion Graeme Dott and more players could all beat Allen to a place should they have a strong tournament over the coming days.
Crucible Countdown – As It Stands
14: Ali Carter 313,025
15: Stuart Bingham 308,587
16: Mark Allen 304,950
17: Ryan Day 299,112
18: Stephen Maguire 273,025
19: Liang Wenbo 258,650
20: Mark King 224,950
21: Joe Perry 210,450
22: Graeme Dott 201,425
Meanwhile, the opening day of the prestigious ranking event saw wins for the season’s star men Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams.
Home favourites Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo got off to winning starts while former world champion Stuart Bingham battled back from 5-3 down to beat Matthew Stevens 6-5.
However, there were also early exits for some big names who now have no more big match preparation ahead of the World Championship.
Two times World Championship finalist Ali Carter suffered a 6-4 loss to 2015 China Open finalist Gary Wilson and world number 11 Luca Brecel suffered a 6-4 defeat to Scottish Open finalist Cao Yupeng.