Ronnie O'Sullivan was beaten 4-3 by Simon Bedford in the Players Tour Championship upon returning to the snooker tour.
It was the 36-year-old's first match since his fourth Crucible triumph in May, initially saying he would be taking six months out of the sport.
He then initially refused to sign the contract players must return to World Snooker before being eligible to compete.
Appearance money was a factor behind O'Sullivan's delay, but talks with World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn eventually saw him sign.
O'Sullivan took the first two rather scrappy frames at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester to leave Bedford, also aged 36, needing to win four of the next five.
Remarkably he managed to do so, taking advantage of O'Sullivan errors initially by picking off points in several visits to take the third frame.
Bedford levelled the match but then a run of 47 from O'Sullivan saw him inch ahead again.
Once more, Bedford hauled himself level, and then with the pressure on showed no sign of nerves as he almost finished off with a century.