Faugheen survived a couple of jumping blunders to run out a convincing winner on his chasing bow at Punchestown.
The 2015 Champion Hurdle hero was making his first start over fences at the age of 11 in the Naas Oil Beginners Chase after an indifferent season over hurdles last term, but punters kept the faith with Willie Mullins’ runner and he was sent off the 8-11 favourite.
Paul Townend was happy to let Faugheen bowl along in front and everything appeared to be going swimmingly for the nine-times Grade One winner until he came to the eighth fence.
He met the obstacle all wrong, but Townend somehow managed to maintain the partnership and recover his lost irons in time to jump the next, but Lord Schnitzel had powered through to take control.
Faugheen then pecked on landing at the third-last fence and it looked as though he may have forfeited any chance of a win.
However, his class came to the fore and he cleared the final two fences without incident to win by an impressive seven and a half lengths. Walk Away was second, with Lord Schnitzel in third.
Faugheen was given an enthusiastic welcome, with racegoers at Cheltenham also cheering him home while watching on screens.
Mullins said: “He was brilliant over the first half dozen until he made that mistake — it was probably the first ditch that he’d seen!
“Paul said he just put down and tried to do what he does over hurdles, which is gallop out through it. Now he realises that you can’t do that and by the time he got over the last two, Paul was very happy with him.
“He showed a nice turn of foot when he had to ask him to race going down to the last and after it. The engine certainly seemed to be there.
“I’m happy that we got today out of the way and we’ll see how he comes out of this before deciding where we go next.”
Townend said: “He changed his mind a bit at the ditch and just went to bring it with him as he could do over hurdles back in his day.
“He was a bit careful over the next couple, but I couldn’t believe how he came back on the bridle so strong after he pecked at the back of the third last.”