China's Ding ahead as he aims to join Yan in World Championships second round

·3 min read
Chinese star Ding Junhui's bid to be crowned snooker world champion saw him take a 5-4 lead in his opener against 2015 winner Stuart Bingham

China's Ding Junhui established a narrow 5-4 lead over former title-holder Stuart Bingham on Monday as he looked to join compatriot Yan Bingtao in the second round of snooker's World Championship.

Ding had a difficult start against Bingham, the 2015 world champion.

Although he had to come through qualifying after dropping out of the world's top 16, the Englishman made a fine break of 131 in the opening frame and was 3-1 ahead at the mid-session interval thanks to a contribution of 129.

But world number nine Ding responded with clearances of 105 and 86 before a fluked black saw him take a hard-fought ninth frame of a match that will be played to a finish at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre on Tuesday.

No Asian player has yet won snooker's prestigious title, with Canada's Cliff Thorburn (1980) and Australia's Neil Robertson (2010), the only world champions from outside Britain and Ireland in the modern era.

Ding, however, lost 18-14 in the 2016 final to England's Mark Selby and has long been tipped to be China's first world champion.

Meanwhile Tian Pengfei saw his hopes of a shock upset win over John Higgins dashed as the four-times world champion won six frames in a row to clinch a 10-7 success.

- 'Dodged a bullet' -

Tiang led 7-4 but the Chinese cueman was undone by a combination of his nerves and some typically resilient matchplay from Higgins.

The Scottish veteran moved one frame away from victory with a break of 127 before the match was paused as it risked delaying the evening session, with the players made to wait until Anthony McGill had defeated Ricky Walden to complete the match.

"I've dodged a bullet there big time because Tian had enough chances to beat me," said Higgins.

"I've brought him down to my level and it's a big relief."

Reigning Masters champion Yan Bingtao's bid for Crucible glory started with a 10-6 win over qualifier Martin Gould on Sunday.

The 21-year-old Chinese will now face either 2005 champion Shaun Murphy or Mark Davis in the second round.

China's Liang Wenbo saw his World Championship end in a 10-3 loss to Robertson.

The Australian, 6-3 ahead overnight, won four straight frames on Sunday, including two century breaks, to secure a last-16 tie against either Ali Carter or Jack Lisowski.

Reigning champion Ronnie O'Sullivan eased into the second round with a 10-4 win over qualifier Mark Joyce.

O'Sullivan, however, said he had been "harassed" by a "boozed-up" fan while relaxing at a Sheffield restaurant.

Spectators are being allowed into the Crucible to watch the tournament as part of a British government pilot programme following the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England, with organisers hopeful a capacity crowd will be able to attend the final.

"About 99 percent of people have been fine," said O'Sullivan, who will equal Hendry's modern-day record of seven world championships if he retains his title.

"It is the odd one. He was boozed up -- it is what it is."