Mark Selby will launch his Betfred World Championship title defence against an opponent who was accused of playing anti-snooker to reach the Crucible.
Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien was part of a world record on Wednesday night when he won the longest frame in the history of professional snooker.
He needed two hours, three minutes and 41 seconds to win a decider against David Gilbert and book his place in the main draw.
The frame lasted 44 seconds longer than Kenyan athlete Dennis Kipruto’s marathon world record, and Gilbert was upset by the ponderous tactics employed by O’Brien.
“The pace of play was diabolical from pretty much start to finish, and it wasn’t me,” said Gilbert. Asked if it felt gruelling, Gilbert said: “It’s worse than that – that’s not snooker.”
O’Brien responded to the criticism by saying: “In future would I like to play like that again? Absolutely not.
“Did I overplay shots, did I double-check stuff? Probably yes, but such was the pressure.”
O’Brien had fancied landing a draw against Selby, who last year beat Ding Junhui in the final to add to his 2014 triumph, and their match will begin at 10am on Saturday as the tournament gets under way.
The 45-year-old Dubliner said of Selby: “He’s a fantastic player. It’s always a special occasion, with the defending champion coming back on the Saturday and playing all day Saturday as is the tradition. Happy days.”
After sitting at the top of the world rankings for the last two years, Selby is regarded by many fellow players and past greats of the game as the man to beat.
The 33-year-old from Leicester also won the China Open at the start of April, and looks in shape to become the first player to follow that achievement with Crucible glory.