Ronnie O’Sullivan fended off a determined challenge from Fergal O’Brien to secure a first-round victory at the Bank of Beijing China Open.
The world number one trailed 2-1 and despite winning the next two frames was then pegged back to 3-3 by Irish cueman O’Brien, who has failed to qualify for this month’s World Championships.
But O’Sullivan produced breaks of 55 and 54 to take the next two frames and secure a 5-3 win, setting up a clash with 20-year-old Chinese player Xiao Guodong, who was a surprise first-round winner against Ding Junhui.
O’Sullivan said: “At 3-3 I could have been on my way home, but experience tells me never to panic or worry.”
He told worldsnooker.com: “I always have faith that if I can find another gear I can pull away, and turn a 50/50 situation into a 90/10 in my favour. If I play decent I always like my chances.
“I was a bit loose today, I haven’t played many matches lately so it would be good to win a few here to get some match sharpness.”
World champion O’Sullivan is seeking his second ranking title of the campaign, having won the Northern Ireland Trophy.
Stephen Hendry gained an encouraging victory over Robert Milkins, beating the Englishman 5-3.
Seven-time former Crucible winner Hendry has endured a tough season and enjoyed little success by his own high standards. His next match, against Ricky Walden, could provide a stiff test for the 40-year-old Scot.
There were also wins today for Mark Selby, who beat fellow Englishman Stephen Lee 5-1, and for Mark King, a 5-2 winner against Welshman Mark