Ronnie O'Sullivan admitted he had to overcome a nasty bout of "nerves" to keep his World Championship title challenge alive in Sheffield yesterday.
Ahead 7-2 overnight, O'Sullivan looked as if he would cruise to a comprehensive victory over Liang Wenbo, a qualifier from China, when they resumed to conclude their first round match here. But the three-times world champion was forced to call on all his experience to clinch a 10-7 victory after his gutsy opponent reeled off four frames in a row to increase the pressure on O'Sullivan.
There were no century breaks from snooker's leading player, although he did pocket runs of 73 and 60 to finally fall over the finishing line and earn himself an eagerly-anticipated second-round match with Mark Williams, the two-time Crucible champion.
"It was quite nerveracking out there," said O'Sullivan, who compiled earlier match breaks of 108, 100, 86, 73, 56 and 54.
"The pressure was getting on me a bit, so I had to find something from somewhere. The nerves play a big part here unless you settle. Unless you get into your rhythm early it can be tough. You can miss anything out there sometimes – and that proved to be the case. But thankfully I just managed to nick a lead after that first session."
Wenbo, who mustered a high break of just 39 in the opening nine frames, returned a different player for the second session. The world No 27 impressed with breaks of 103, 61, 48 and 46, as well as a tournament high of 127, to give the outgoing world No 1 plenty to worry about. Cheered on by his army of fans, though, O'Sullivan held himself together to avoid an early upset.
Looking ahead to his match with Williams, which starts on Saturday, the 34-year-old said: "It's a really hard draw, I could have done with an easy match to be honest. It will be a tough game, I don't think you could get a harder draw. He's coming back to form and – along with John Higgins – is a favourite for the title."
Former world champion Graeme Dott has one foot in the second round after he established a healthy 7-2 overnight lead against Peter Ebdon in a repeat of the 2006 final. Ebdon compiled breaks of 50 and 41, but it was Glaswegian Dott who dominated thanks to runs of 105, 53, 57, 48, 41, 50 and 44.