Ronnie O’Sullivan held off a spirited fightback from Liang Wenbo to book his place in the Quarter-Finals of the 2020 World Grand Prix in Cheltenham on Wednesday.
O’Sullivan, the 2018 World Grand Prix champion, produced three century breaks but was forced all the way by Liang – who squandered a golden chance to clinch victory.
O’Sullivan had edged out David Gilbert in a deciding frame on Monday and began superbly against his close friend Liang with breaks of 120 and 100 in the first two frames.
After a re-rack in frame three, O’Sullivan fouled on the black and Liang punished with a 56 break to get off the mark and half the deficit.
A scrappy fourth frame also went the way of the former English Open champion as he drew level, before O’Sullivan got back on track with a majestic 132 clearance to lead 3-2.
A break of 74 saw Liang send the tie the distance, but loose positional play proved his undoing in the decider as O’Sullivan edged over the line 67-48.
“I try not to assess it, I got a result tonight and I’m pleased to be through,” O’Sullivan told World Snooker.
“I felt very rusty among the balls, I seem all at sea but each match I get, hopefully I get a little bit stronger.
“It was a twitchy sort of game, Liang looked like he had a bit of the yips in the first few frames, he couldn’t let go of the cue.
“That kind of put me off a little bit and I thought if I can’t beat someone who’s got the yips than I might as well turn it in.”
O’Sullivan will now face Graeme Dott in Thursday’s Quarter-Finals after the in-form Scotsman whitewashed Xiao Guodong with a top break of 67 in frame one.
Former UK Championship semi-finalist Tom Ford sealed his spot in the Last Eight by dispatching Matthew Selt 4-2 with high breaks of 97 and 73.
Ford will now take on in-form Gary Wilson after he secured his place in a third ranking event of the season courtesy of a 4-1 win over Matthew Stevens with high breaks of 74 and 92.
The First Round drew to a close in the afternoon session as Mark Williams limped his way into the Last 16 thanks to a 4-2 win over a struggling Barry Hawkins.
Williams was hobbling round the table in a protective slipper after suffering from gout but did enough to clinch victory and prolong Hawkins’ poor run of results.
John Higgins also took advantage of a below-par Masters Champion Stuart Bingham as he battled his way to a 4-2 victory with high breaks of 60 and 58.
Higgins will now face Zhao Xintong in Round Two after the 22-year-old impressed in a defeating Chinese compatriot Yan Bingtao 4-2 with high breaks of 103 and 77.
For the second time this year, Kyren Wilson came from 2-0 down to defeat Jack Lisowski as he prevailed in a deciding frame.
Wilson had dumped Lisowski out of The Masters in Round One last month and repeated the dose on the local favourite thanks to a 52 break in the decider.
Coral World Grand Prix 2020 Results
Wednesday February 5
John Higgins 4-2 Stuart Bingham
Yan Bingtao 2-4 Zhao Xintong
Kyren Wilson 4-3 Jack Lisowski
Mark Williams 4-2 Barry Hawkins
Ronnie O’Sullivan 4-3 Liang Wenbo
Xiao Guodong 0-4 Graeme Dott
Matthew Selt 2-4 Tom Ford
Gary Wilson 4-1 Matthew Stevens