|Venue: Alexandra Palace, London Dates: 9-16 January|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app|
Mark Williams produced a vintage display to beat defending champion Yan Bingtao 6-4 in a thrilling first-round Masters encounter at Alexandra Palace.
Yan, 21, began impressively with breaks of 64, 71 and 57 to take a 3-1 lead.
Williams, 46, responded by compiling four half centuries and a century and sealed his win with a run of 85 after Yan kept his hopes alive with a 122.
Neil Robertson also advanced with a 6-3 win in an error-strewn contest against Anthony McGill.
Welshman Williams will now face John Higgins or Zhao Xintong in Thursday’s quarter-final, while Australia’s Robertson will play Ronnie O’Sullivan or Jack Lisowski in the last eight.
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Robertson stutters to victory
After being dumped out of the tournament at the first hurdle on the last two occasions, the 2012 winner Robertson will be delighted just to get under way with a win against a tricky opponent in Scotland’s McGill.
Robertson was anything but convincing and benefitted hugely from McGill’s repeated failure to capitalise on some loose potting and lax safety.
The 39-year-old Australian made a break of 75 to go into the mid-session interval level at 2-2 and then went 3-2 ahead with a run of 94 having been outplayed for much of opening of the match.
But he had the better of the final few frames, making breaks of 57 and 62 before completing his win.
“It was tough,” Robertson told BBC Sport.
“I probably had too much of a break over Christmas. I felt in a few frames that I was really rusty and Anthony made it really tough. He was very deliberate in not allowing me to see any long balls or create anything safety wise.”
Veteran Williams takes centre stage
While Yan’s success 12 months ago was played out behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, this was his first taste of playing in front of a packed arena at the tournament’s more established home.
But the Chinese player showed few signs of nerves or pressure as he took a healthy advantage into the interval, with Williams seemingly set to continue a miserable run that had seen him lose five of his previous six first-round matches at the Masters.
Williams’ arrears were largely of his own making, with two loose pots to the middle pockets and a missed black off its spot costing him three frames in which he appeared capable of making sizable breaks.
However, a sprinkling of genius and good fortune in the fifth frame was the catalyst for a Williams fightback, that ultimately carried him to victory over a player who had not even been born when he claimed the first of his two Masters titles in 1998.
The three-time world champion, who is still battling the after effects of Covid, fortuitously landed safe after wildly missing a pot to the left corner and then went on to play a trademark underarm shot to pot the yellow before clinching the frame by potting the pink with a one-handed escape from a snooker.
“I play them all the time in practice and in matches I don’t miss many underarm shots,” Williams told BBC Sport.
“There are some snookers I would rather play one-handed – it is not taking the mickey out of my opponent it is just that I feel more comfortable and if I get most of them, why not?
“I am lucky I had an afternoon match. If I played a night match… you know in the house I am talking to my wife and within 10 seconds I am fast asleep. It is just weird. It feels like you are carrying five bags of coal around on your shoulder all the time.
“I’m definitely better than where I was a month ago but still nowhere near.”
Williams went from strength to strength after levelling with a break of 62 and made breaks of 67, 64 and 104 as he won the next two frames without Yan potting a ball.
While the Chinese star rallied with a wonderful 122, another fluke at the start of the 10th frame helped Williams finish off the contest.
Former world champion John Parrott on BBC Two
“Mark Williams has still got it. To be producing that standard of snooker at the age of 46 is fantastic.
“He is one of the all-time greats. He is different from everyone else, the shots he plays are clever and, while he was helped by a couple of flukes, he was striking the ball so well. With the long pots he is knocking in he was playing some great stuff.
“I would have paid good money to have a temperament as good as his and be so cool, calm and controlled when he was losing. He was 3-1 down in the match but that has always been his trump card aside from all his talent.”
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