O’Sullivan faces Gilbert in Crucible first round

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - MAY 02: Ronnie O'Sullivan of England in action during his Betfred.com World Snooker Championship Quarter Final match against Neil Robertson of Australia at Crucible Theatre on May 2, 2012 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan begins his quest for a sixth snooker World Championship title against one-time potato farmer David Gilbert in Sheffield.

O’Sullivan is the bookmakers’ favourite to prevail at the Crucible after wins already this year at the Masters and Welsh Open.

Gilbert, his first round opponent, is enjoying the best season of his career and was a runner-up at the International Championship in China in November.

Defending Crucible champion Stuart Bingham begins his challenge with a tough opener against two-time beaten finalist Ali Carter.

Other highlights of Thursday’s first-round draw include the all-Scottish clash of Stephen Maguire and Alan McManus, Judd Trump’s match against Liang Wenbo and a repeat of last year’s quarter-final between Shaun Murphy and Anthony McGill.

Four-time champion John Higgins plays Ryan Day first, Mark Selby tackles Robert Milkins, while China’s former world number one Ding Junhui, who was widely considered the qualifier best avoided, was handed a tie against Martin Gould.

Former world champions Mark Williams and Graeme Dott go head to head.

The only debutant in this year’s tournament, Birmingham’s Mitchell Mann, will play former semi-finalist Mark Allen.

World Championship 1st rd draw:

Stuart Bingham v Ali Carter

Stephen Maguire v Alan McManus

Ricky Walden v Robbie Williams

John Higgins v Ryan Day

Judd Trump v Liang Wenbo

Martin Gould v Ding Junhui

Mark Williams v Graeme Dott

Neil Robertson v Michael Holt

Shaun Murphy v Anthony McGill

Marco Fu v Peter Ebdon

Barry Hawkins v Zhang Anda

Ronnie O’Sullivan v David Gilbert

Mark Allen v Mitchell Mann

Joe Perry v Kyren Wilson

Michael White v Sam Baird

Mark Selby v Robert Milkins