Mark Allen came into the Tour Championship as the top seed but a confident Ding Junhui ended his hopes in the first round with an impressive 10-5 win in Hull.
Ding very nearly missed out on the eight-player event, with Gary Wilson one frame away from qualifying at the WST Classic, but a semi-final defeat for the Tyneside Terror saw the Dragon descend on Hull.
He has made the most of it so far, making a top break of 116 and nine half-centuries in a dominant victory over Allen, who has won three ranking titles this season, including the UK Championship where he beat Ding in the final 10-7 after trailing 1-6.
The 35-year-old has not won a ranking event since 2019, but he did win an event earlier this month as he claimed the Six-red World Championship in Thailand for a second time.
It may have been a different format but it has given the former world number one a vital boost in confidence at the business end of the season with the Crucible right around the corner and the chance of a Tour Championship title even closer.
‘I’ve been playing good all day, very focussed to day, taken chances well and fighting hard,’ Ding told ITV after beating Allen.
‘Winning the Six-red I’m a bit more confident than when I played the UK final, so pretty good to start with a win in a match like this.’
On Allen, Ding suggested: ‘Maybe he got tired from winning so many tournaments. If he played like the UK final in the second session then tonight could have been big trouble for me tonight also.’
Ding is currently outside the world’s top 16 but has kept his hopes alive of heading straight to the Crucible without having to qualify, depending on Ryan Day’s results in Hull this week compared to his own.
Alan McManus, on punditry duty on ITV4, hopes the Chinese icon makes it to the Crucible one way or the other, and reckons he will judging by Monday’s form, declaring Ding to be back!
‘I hope he gets to the Crucible, he’s too good not to be,’ said Angles. ‘He was on it today, he’s back!’
Ding takes on either Kyren Wilson or Ali Carter on Friday in the semi-finals in Hull.
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