The 46-year-old from Malta won his first round match at the World Snooker Academy to set up a meeting with Michael White and move to within three victories of securing a place at September's tournament in China.
Others to post opening wins included Liam Highfield, Rod Lawler and Luca Brecel.
Qualifying runs from Tuesday to Friday, with eight places on the flight to China up for grabs at the end of four rounds of play.
Round one results:
Hossein Vafaei Ayouri 0-5 Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon
Chen Zhe 4-5 Scott Donaldson
Paul Davison 2-5 Aditya Mehta
Craig Steadman 3-5 Luca Brecel
Jamie O'Neill 4-5 Tony Drago
Ian Burns 5-1 Pankaj Advani
Liam Highfield 5-3 Zhang Anda
David Grace 5-2 Michael Leslie
Robbie Williams 5-0 Floyd Ziegler
Sam Baird 2-5 Ben Judge
Martin O'Donnell 4-5 Fraser Patrick
Rod Lawler 5-0 Gareth Allen
Daniel Wells 1-5 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Sean O'Sullivan 4-5 Tian Pengfei
Kurt Maflin w/o Mohamed Khairy
Joel Walker 0-5 Cao Yupeng