MUCH was made of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s first round clash with Peter Ebdon, the first time the pair have played each other at the Crucible since their now infamous 2005 quarter-final meeting at snooker’s spiritual home.
That match, seven years ago, saw the unpredictable ‘Rocket’ squander a 8-2 lead in a shock 13-11 defeat.
But this time around, the triple world champion didn’t mentally implode as he cruised to a 10-4 victory to secure his last 16 place.
And whether you like O’Sullivan or not - and arguably there are more people who do than don’t - there’s no debate that the Betfred.com World Championship is a better place with him rather than without him.
At 7-2 in front the job was nearly done, but the Chigwell cueman still had to get over the line against pedestrian potter Ebdon.
And breaks of 80, 68 and 54 helped him do exactly that as he won the three frames he needed for victory to set-up a meeting with either double world champion Mark Williams or Chinese qualifier Liu Chuang, who lives and practices in Sheffield, in the next round.
“I knew it was going to be tough and I expected a tough game. That’s what you get with Peter.” reflected O’Sullivan. “I’m just pleased to be in the tournament and won a match. Whatever happens now is a bonus for me. If I win, then great, but if I don’t it’s not the be-all-and-end-all. I’ll just enjoy this one.”
An emotional Ebdon broke down in tears in his post-match press conference and admitted he even considered quitting the sport following the death of his father, Michael, last year.
“After my dad passed away I didn’t know that I would want to play again,” said Ebdon. “I miss him so much and I know he would have been so proud of me that I’ve achieved 21 consecutive years at the Crucible.
“I set that goal a long time ago, and I know he would have been so proud of me, and I’m so gutted he’s not here.”
Last year’s beaten finalist Judd Trump was struck down with bad food poisoning on the eve of his opening match.
But the world No 2 showed true courage to edge 5-4 ahead of Welshman Dominic Dale after the opening nine-frame session of their first round showdown.
Last year’s beaten Crucible finalist Trump was violently sick just a few minutes before he walked out to play former Shanghai Masters champion Dale in the morning session of their best-of-19 frame meeting.
Having felt ill overnight having eaten what he believed to be some dodgy chicken, the 22-year-old somehow held himself together to battle it out for nine frames against Dale. Trump needs five more frames when the duo resume to finish their duel this afternoon.
Result: Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Peter Ebdon 10-4.
Latest scores: Trump leads Dale 5-4, Ryan Day leads Ding Junhui 5-4, Joe Perry leads Graeme Dott 8-1.
Today’s 1st round matches (all best-of-19)- 10am: Dott v Perry, Ding v Day - both to a finish.