Defending champion John Higgins holds a slender 5-4 lead over Liang Wenbo after the opening session of their first-round encounter at the World Championship in Sheffield.

The four-time winner had to dig deep, rallying from 4-3 down to claim a one-frame advantage in the first-to-10 contest, which will conclude on Saturday evening.

It could have been a different story had China's Liang converted his chance when among the balls in frame eight. However, an unlucky in-off swung the momentum back Higgins' way, with the Scot showing all of his battling qualities to grab the initiative ahead of the final session.

A scrappy first frame went the way of Higgins, who then doubled his lead with a break of 70. Liang showed his break-building skills to pull one back and looked on course to level up after snookering his opponent in frame four, only for Higgins to sink a long pink for 3-1.

Liang took command after the interval, rattling off three frames in a row. And a two-frame lead looked on the cards when he clipped in a thin red, but the cue ball found a pocket and Higgins cleaned up to draw level at 4-4. Liang could have pinched the final frame of the session having trailed 59-0 at one stage. However, a missed pink off the last red saw Higgins come back to the table and secure a narrow lead.

Stephen Hendry fired in a thrilling 147 maximum break - his third at the Crucible - en route to a commanding position in his match with Stuart Bingham. The Scot, who only returned from a 10,000-mile round trip to China for business on Friday, was in sumptuous form as he established an 8-1 cushion. The 147 - the 10th ever seen at the arena - occurred in the seventh frame, with Ken Doherty and Neil Robertson stopping their match on the other table to witness his achievement. Hendry only needs two frames on Sunday to advance into the next round.

"I still have a match to win but the 147 was probably one of my best, position-wise," he said. "It was absolutely fantastic to make a third maximum at the World Championship. I felt really good out there, and the jet lag - well, sleep is for wimps. It's the new way, fly in to Sheffield the day before with no practice! That ties with me with Ronnie [O'Sullivan] to have made three here, and I don't care what Mark Williams says about the Crucible, there is no better feeling than to make one here."

Elsewhere, David Gilbert is on course to record a first victory at the Crucible after opening up a 6-3 lead over Martin Gould. Gilbert lost his only match at the event to Stephen Hendry in 2007, but he is in pole position to advance to the last 16.