The world No 104 was set a daunting task against last year’s semi-finalist Tom Ford, but Grace comfortably dispatched his opponent 6-3 with a commanding performance in York. And having endured a tough campaign thus-far – in which he had failed to go further than the first round of a tournament until his arrival at the Barbican – he was thrilled to prevail in the venue’s main arena.
“It’s massive,” he said. “My season’s been very stop-start so it’s been hard to get anything going but I managed to make the most of a lot of the opportunities I had on the table.
“Tom’s a fantastic player. He was a few frames behind, then he rattled off a century break and got back into it. It could have easily been 5-4, but I managed to nick the last frame and get over the line.
“Win or lose, I was really looking forward to playing here because it’s always a special event, and it was the first time I’d been out on the main stage since I made the semi-finals in 2015.
“I think that played a part in why I played well. If you can’t get yourself up for something like this then you shouldn’t be a snooker player.”
After sealing his spot in the last 64, Grace admitted that simply progressing past the first round had matched his ambitions at the first Triple Crown event of the season.
But with a win in the bag at a venue so close to home, he insisted he can’t wait to get back in action and test his credentials against more of the sport’s big-hitters.
He said: “It’s good to still be involved. For a player ranked where I am, winning your first round match is actually a good tournament.
“I know that’s not setting your sights massively high, but that’s just the reality of playing for a lot of money. Once that’s out of the way, you really can relax and then anything can happen.
“I’ll go home and back to the club tomorrow for a couple of days and then I’ll come back up the night before I play. I can’t wait to get going again.”
Former world champion Shaun Murphy suffered a shock 6-4 defeat to Israel’s Eden Sharav.
Watch the UK Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White.