The talking had been done and the practice had been played. With World Snooker promising the ''biggest tournament ever'' all that was required was a classic opening game and Stuart Bingham and Ali Carter duly delivered.
Carter races out of the blocks before Bingham fights back
Despite a gap of 29 places in the world rankings, Ali Carter against Stuart Bingham looked set to be a classic. Bingham is the world number two and reigning champion, whilst Carter has won nine out of ten meetings between the pair and been a World Championship finalist on two occasions.
Favourite Bingham admitted to being ''tired'' after a busy season as the World Champion and the rustiness was evident in a difficult opening to the match. Despite Bingham winning the opening frame, Carter came back strong with five consecutive frames, including a break of 78 in the fourth to take a commanding lead.
The situation could have been a whole lot worse for Bingham until Carter missed a green when the seventh frame looked to be a certainty. Bingham jumped on that miss to win a frame back, before rallying to take the next two with breaks of 96 and 90 to get himself back into the match at the end of the session.
Bingham continued his recovery by winning the opening frame of the evening session as he drew level for the first time since the start of the contest. Carter hit back to win the eleventh frame with a break of 69 to restore the lead, before taking control oncemore with the following two frames to open an 8-5 gap.
Yet Bingham is a world champion so must have a sense of resilience about his game and he showed that just before and after the mid-session interval. Breaks of 88, 68 and 113 squeezed around a nine point victory in the fifteenth frame took the champion just one step away from the second round at 9-8.
However Carter has shown resilience on a different scale after recovering from cancer twice and hit back with his first century break of 102 to take the match into a seconding frame. A nervy encounter ensued, but Carter eventually took the honours as the Crucible Curse struck oncemore, with a world champion still not capable of defending their title at the historic venue.
Dominant Fu goes through
On the adjacent table to the epic battle, world number 12 Marco Fu found a much easier route to progress against 2002 champion Peter Ebdon. The veteran of 25 professional years came into the match with successes in 17 of the last 19 frames but Fu soon took control in a comfortable victory.
The man from Hong Kong barely allowed his esteemed colleague any time at the table after the pair shared the opening two frames. Fu compiled breaks of 111, 138 and 84 as Ebdon managed just 17 points in the next four frames. He did hit back in the seventh frame, before another half century break gave Fu a 6-2 lead at the end of the morning session.
A few hours break in play did not affect the concentration of Fu as he came out flying in the evening session. After a 72-0 win in the ninth frame put Fu five frames ahead, Ebdon began to spend more time at the table but could not find that elusive half century break. Fu was delivering them at every opportunity as two breaks of 71 in the final three frames gave him a comfortable 10-2 victory.