Ronnie O’Sullivan marked his first appearance of 2020 with a deciding frame victory over David Gilbert at the World Grand Prix, while Xiao Guodong pulled off a 4-3 scalp of Mark Selby on opening night.
O’Sullivan, who has featured in just four ranking tournaments so far this season, began his quest to claim a second Grand Prix crown with a 4-3 success in Cheltenham.
The world number four coasted into a 3-1 lead, only for the four-time ranking finalist to clinch back-to-back frames to force a decider.
O’Sullivan, though, saved his best for last as he fired in a terrific clearance of 129 to book his place in the Last 16.
“I’m just pleased to be through,” O’Sullivan told ITV Sport.
“I’m under no illusions, I was second favourite coming into the match, Dave was the higher seed and has had a better season than me.
“I just kind of hung on to him and nicked a couple of frames, he’ll feel disappointed he’s lost that one I would imagine.
“It’s probably highly unlikely I will be there [Players Championship or Tour Championship], I’d have to win one of the next two events.
“The snooker rankings never lie, I haven’t played well enough this season and haven’t got the results required to get into that bracket.”
Gilbert opened up with a 52 break in the first frame, but after making a half century of his own, O’Sullivan punished a loose safety from his opponent to take the lead.
O’Sullivan then missed a risky double on a red, and after Gilbert fluked the blue, he cleared to level the match.
Gilbert, however, missed clear cut chances in the next two frames as O’Sullivan went 3-1 ahead, but back-to-back breaks of 69 and 115 saw the Crucible semi-finalist force a decider.
It took a moment of brilliance to settle the tie as ‘The Rocket’ blasted in a vintage 129 to set up a meeting with either Mark Allen or Liang Wenbo on Wednesday.
Elsewhere, Xiao Guodong came through a high quality contest to see off three-time World Champion Mark Selby in a decider.
The first three frames each produced a century as Selby made breaks of 111 and 131 to Xiao’s 101.
Xiao was on course to make a maximum in frame four but missed a routine black to see his effort end at 89.
He then added a 78 to lead 3-2 before Selby forced a decider with a clinical 83, but it was the Chinese cueist who held his nerve to progress.
Tom Ford, who has already made two maximum breaks this season, recovered from 3-1 down to knock out UK Championship finalist Stephen Maguire 4-3.
Maguire made breaks of 68, 90 and 64 to Ford’s 60 as the Scot took control, but only for the Leicester cueist to hit back with breaks of 54 and 52 before dominating the decider.
Gary Wilson continued his fine run of form by thrashing Zhou Yuelong 4-1 with breaks of 53, 58 and 61 in an assured display.
Coral World Grand Prix 2020 Results
Monday February 3
David Gilbert 3-4 Ronnie O’Sullivan
Stephen Maguire 3-4 Tom Ford
Mark Selby 3-4 Xiao Guodong
Zhou Yuelong 1-4 Gary Wilson