A pumped-up Peter Ebdon started and finished the first session of his Embassy World Championship defence with a century break to take control of his opening game against qualifier Gerard Greene.
The world number three resumes this evening with a 6-3 lead over the world number 63.
That leaves the determined title holder requiring just four of the remaining 10 frames to stay on course to make snooker history.
No first-time champion has ever returned to Sheffield and retained the trophy.
But Ebdon said: “They will have to scrape me off the table before I give up the trophy.”
Ebdon received a great welcome from the Crucible crowd as he emerged from the wings into the cramped but atmospheric arena to start his defence.
And applause was soon ringing out again as he knocked in a superb 127 break to make the perfect start.
Ebdon did not have things his own way in the next three hours however, as former stablemate Greene nicked a couple of timely clearances to keep the pressure on.
Ebdon has not been in any sort of final since denying Hendry an eighth world crown last May.
And while talking a good game in the build up to the championship, his confidence was not exactly overflowing after a series of poor results, including a first round exit from the recent Scottish Open.
But his superb total clearance to finish the session suggests he has rediscovered his form just at the right time.
It enabled him to close with a crucial four-frame advantage after earlier finding himself level at 2-2 and 3-3.
Greene, who reached the LG Cup quarter-finals last October, made only one half century during the morning play while Ebdon knocked in runs of 72 and 67 to go with his two centuries.