|Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 16 April-2 May
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV and Red Button with uninterrupted coverage on BBC iPlayer, the BBC Sport website and the BBC Sport app
Mark Selby began the defence of his World Championship title by holding off dogged Welsh qualifier Jamie Jones with a 10-7 victory in Sheffield.
Leicester’s Selby is aiming for a fifth world crown and looked sloppy in parts, but made three centuries and four 50+ breaks as he resisted Jones’ comeback.
Next up for Selby will be China’s Yan Bingtao or qualifier Chris Wakelin.
World number one Ronnie O’Sullivan recovered from 3-0 down to lead David Gilbert 6-3 after the first session.
The Rocket is aiming for a record-equalling seventh world title in his 30th appearance at the Crucible to draw alongside Scottish legend Stephen Hendry.
Qualifier Gilbert surged ahead but O’Sullivan, 46, showed his class by responding with 122, 64, 104 and 66 for six frames in a row. They play to a finish on Sunday afternoon.
Jones lets Selby off the hook
Selby admitted before the tournament that he considered not defending his title because of his ongoing battle with mental health illness.
Rather than stepping up his preparations for snooker’s showpiece event by spending time on the practice table, 38-year-old Selby instead withdrew from two ranking events and went on holiday to Dubai with his family.
There seemed to be some rustiness in the early exchanges, leaving Selby bemused by missing straightforward pots, but he soon settled into his stride by compiling superb breaks of 134 and 129, as well as further runs of 71, 64, and 73 to go 6-3 in front.
Jones had chances but let Selby off the hook and the result looked to be a formality when the world number two took the opening two frames of the evening session.
But Jones made a determined fightback by taking four of the next five frames, which included Selby compiling a stunning 137 clearance, and he clinched the match after Jones went in-off into the corner pocket.
Selby said: “It was great. Emotional walking out today and I got a great reception. It is nice to be back playing and wasn’t really sure if I would play in the World Championship. The result for me today was irrelevant, I am happy to win and I enjoyed it.”
Jones added: “I fought on and I showed heart. I never give up – that’s the only way I know how to play – and made it hard for Mark. I can be proud of myself and could have rolled over at 8-3 but stuck in there with the world champ.”
UK champion Zhao Xintong signalled his intent by opening up a dominant 7-2 lead over Welshman Jamie Clarke before Sunday morning’s conclusion.
China’s Zhao, 25, has broken through this year by winning two ranking events and was in sublime scoring form, making two centuries as well as breaks of 98, 78 and 73.
England’s Shaun Murphy, the 2005 champion, faces a tough task against Scot Stephen Maguire after losing the opening session 6-3.
Welsh 20-year-old Jackson Page impressed on his debut by taking a 6-3 lead over former finalist Barry Hawkins.
Page made a 102 in the eighth frame but Englishman Hawkins nicked the next frame on the black to remain in contention.
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