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World Snooker Championship 2021 Day Two preview and order of play: Higgins commences Crucible campaign

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Ronnie O’Sullivan vows to give Crucible crowd “plenty more” after brushing aside Mark Joyce

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Jubilant Jamie Jones feeling ‘dangerous’ after Stephen Maguire scalp at the World Championship

Higgins produced another inspired display against rival O’Sullivan (Photo by PA Images)

John Higgins begins his latest pursuit of a fifth World Snooker Championship title on Day Two at The Crucible on Sunday.

The opening day of the £2.5 million show-piece saw defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan successfully avert a shock early exit by sweeping aside debutant Mark Joyce 10-4.

Four matches will reach their conclusions on Day Two, two of which finely-poised, while the other two feature one-sided scorelines in the favour of the seed.

David Gilbert aims to press home a 7-2 lead over Chris Wakelin, having enjoyed a dominant opening session which included three century breaks.

Gilbert, semi-finalist in 2019, fired in breaks of 60, 132, 111, 50, 90 and 100 as he moved 7-1 ahead before Wakelin took the final frame of the session to grab a lifeline.

Reigning UK Champion Neil Robertson opened up 6-3 lead over Liang Wenbo with high breaks of 79, 108, 71 and 60 and will look to finish the job in the evening session.

Liang took an important final frame of the session in style with a break of 126 to add to his earlier efforts of 71 and 78 but has work to do if he is to avoid a second successive First Round exit at the hands of the 2010 champion.

Yan Bingtao and Martin Gould go into their final session locked level at four apiece.

Masters Champion Yan led 2-0 with breaks of 60 and 65 before Gould reeled off three in a row to hit the front.

Yan replied with a break of 73, but Gould hit back superbly with a break of 109 before the Chinese youngster clinched frame eight to restore parity.

Jamie Jones recovered from 3-0 down to establish a narrow 5-4 lead over Stephen Maguire at the halfway stage of their contest.

Jones, making his first Crucible appearance for three years, reeled off five consecutive frames to turn the match on its head despite failing to make a break of over 50, but Maguire stopped the rot in frame nine to ensure a finely-poised tie.

Maguire, the 2020 Tour Championship winner, is looking to improve on a torrid recent record in this event which has seen him suffer six First Round exits in his last eight appearances.

Fifth seed John Higgins aims to continue his strong recent record at the sport’s spiritual home and starts out with a clash against China’s Tian Pengfei.

Higgins has reached the final in three of his last four visits to The Crucible, finishing runner-up in all three, and is out to add a fifth world crown a decade on from his most recent triumph.

After finishing runner-up in The Masters, the 45-year-old produced one of the best overall displays of his career to win the Players Championship for his 31st career ranking title.

The Scot made a magnificent 147 break in last year’s World Championship but was beaten in Round Two by Kurt Maflin and will be wary of the threat posed by two-time qualifier Tian.

The world number 53 first appeared at The Crucible in 2019, losing out to Stephen Maguire in a tense last-frame shoot-out in Round One.

Four times a ranking quarter-finalist, an emotional Tian defeated Billy Joe Castle, Sunny Akani and 2006 World Champion Graeme Dott in last week’s qualifiers to clinch his place in the main event.

The morning session sees two former World Championship semi-finalists collide as Anthony McGill takes on Ricky Walden.

McGill was on the wrong end of a breath-taking deciding frame defeat to Kyren Wilson in last year’s Semis but played his part in an historic contest, having earlier come from 8-2 down to defeat Jamie Clarke in a firey Second Round clash.

The number 16 seed, however, has failed to make it beyond the Last 16 of a ranking tournament this season and will be out to preserve his best form for the biggest event of all.

Walden enjoyed a brilliant run to the Last Four back in 2013 and is back for a first appearance at The Crucible in three years.

The three-time ranking event winner swept aside Peter Lines and Ryan Day in the qualifying rounds for the loss of just six frames and will be quietly confident ahead of his return.


World Snooker Championship 2021 Match Schedule

Sunday April 18

Round One

Anthony McGill v Ricky Walden
Yan Bingtao (4-4) Martin Gould

John Higgins v Tian Pengfei
David Gilbert (7-2) Chris Wakelin

Stephen Maguire (4-5) Jamie Jones
Neil Robertson (6-3) Liang Wenbo