Mark Allen was the most relieved Northern Ireland competitor yesterday when the draw was made for snooker’s World Championship in Sheffield.
The Antrim man will tussle with England's Martin Gould in his opening clash but Belfast man Joe Swail has his work cut out against Marco Fu while Gerard Greene must overcome Ali Carter.
Fu has shot up to fifth in the provisional rankings while Carter was a beaten finalist last year.
Englishman Carter defeated Swail in the recent Welsh Open final and he will go into the Crucible event as one of the title favourites.
Allen will be quietly confident of progressing though his opponent Gould defeated world finalist Matthew Stevens 10-4 in the final qualifying round on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Stuart Bingham is preparing himself for one of the highlights of his career after being paired with reigning champion Ronnie O'Sullivan in the first round.
The Rocket, who beat Carter 18-8 in last year's final, will kick off his bid for a fourth title against Bingham, the world number 21, at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre on April 18.
"It's obviously a very tough draw, but maybe the first round is the best time to play Ron
nie," said 32-year-old Bingham, who beat experienced Scot Alan McManus 10-6 in the final qualifying round on Sunday.
"It will be one of the highlights of my career to play Ronnie at the Crucible."
Arguably the tie of the round sees seven-time champion Hendry meet two-time winner Mark Williams, who came through qualifying.
First Round Draw (starts April 18): Peter Ebdon v Nigel Bond; Ali Carter v Gerard Greene; Mark King v Rory McLeod; Graeme Dott v Barry Hawkins; Shaun Murphy v Andrew Higginson; Ding Junhui v Liang Wenbo; Stephen Hendry v Mark Williams; Ryan Day v Stephen Lee; Joe Perry v Jamie Cope; Mark Selby v Ricky Walden; Mark Allen v Martin Gould; John Higgins v Michael Holt; Neil Robertson v Steve Davis; Ronnie O'Sullivan v Stuart Bingham; Marco Fu v Joe Swail; Stephen Maguire v Jamie Burnett.