WORLD champion Mark Williams edged into the second round of the ManBetX Welsh Open in Cardiff today after surviving an almighty scare against fellow Welshman Kishan Hirani.

Cardiffian Hirani, ranked number 122 in the world, took Cwm cueman Williams, who won the event in 1996 and 1999, all the way to a deciding frame at the Motorpoint Arena.

Williams, 43, did just about enough to get over the line, securing a 4-3 win with a scrappy performance in front of a captivated crowd in the Welsh capital.

“It was a tough game,” said Williams. “I thought he played quite well and made a couple of good breaks.

“His safety was really good and he had me in trouble when I came to the table, and he was only a couple of shots from winning the match.

“He is way down the rankings but could have beaten me. I’m happy to get through and hopefully I can improve a bit.”

He added: “I think it would be good for the tournament if any Welsh player had a good run because it’s been so long (since a Welsh winner).

“It’s unbelievable how none of us have done any good.”

All seemed to be running smoothly for three-time world champion Williams as he got off to the ideal start by winning the first frame with a break of 76.

But Hirani showed he wasn’t going to be a pushover, taking the second frame to level things up against his fellow Welshman.

And Hirani’s chances of causing a huge upset were boosted in the third as he compiled a superb 126 to seize the initiative.

Gwent’s finest responded with gusto, hitting runs of 66 and 80 to make it 2-2 and then 3-2 with two frames left.

Undeterred, Hirani came back fighting and called on all his powers of resolve to take the match into a decider.

World number two Williams held his nerve but knows he will have to play much better in his next match against either Martin Gould or Zhang Anda.

Meanwhile, Williams’ fellow Welshmen Dominic Dale and Ryan Day suffered contrasting fortunes on the first day of the tournament.

Dale rattled in breaks of 74 and 87 on his way to a 4-2 defeat of China’s Li Yuan, who also had runs of 64 and 52.

However, Day complained about the condition of the balls after his early exit at the hands of Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.

Day led 2-0 thanks to scores of 52 and 69 before Un-Nooh fought back and took a decider to knock out one of the home favourites.

Reigning champion John Higgins wasted little time in making it through to the second round.

He scored 230 unanswered points to go 2-0 up and then went on to complete a 4-0 whitewash.