Ding Junhui and Hossein Vafaei go head to head for the right to play Ronnie O’Sullivan in the World Championship second round.
Two of snooker’s crowd favourites lock horns in one of the most eye-catching ties of the opening round, with a showdown against reigning champion O’Sullivan on offer to the winner.
It is now seven years since Ding went agonisingly close to becoming the first World Champion from Asia – and only the third qualifier to lift the trophy after Terry Griffiths (1979) and Shaun Murphy (2005) – losing 18-14 to Mark Selby in the final.
But despite reaching the following year’s semi-finals – again losing out to Selby – the Dragon has struggled to build on that, and is aiming to avoid a third successive first-round exit.
He arrives with momentum having won the Six-Red World Championship last month, while he was also runner-up to Mark Allen at the UK Championship and reached the Tour Championship semi-finals.
However, Ding has been handed one of the toughest possible opening assignments in world number 23 Vafaei.
The former Shoot Out champion became the first Iranian to appear at the Crucible last year, losing 10-4 to eventual runner-up Judd Trump.
After defeating Welsh duo Andrew Pagett and Jackson Page in the qualifiers, he is now looking to become the first player from his nation to register a victory on snooker’s biggest stage.
But the Prince of Persia has endured a generally modest season, a run to the Six-Red World Championship semi-finals representing his best performance, while he has reached the last 16 of just three ranking events.
The match will be contested over the best of 19 frames with the winner facing O’Sullivan in the second round at the Crucible.
The opening nine frames will be played at 10am BST on Sunday, while a maximum of 10 will be contested when they resume at the same time on Monday.
How to watch Ding v Vafaei live stream
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