2014 Incheon Asian Games singles gold medallist, Yannaphon Larpapharat of Thailand got off the block with a cracking 279 in his opening game to lead Malaysia's Adrian Ang and Indonesia's Diwan Rezaldy, who shared second spot on 258.
Singapore's Darren Ong surprised the field by taking over the lead after he downed a stunning 270 to add to his first game of 254. The Thai suffered a lowly 183 to slip away as Ang remained in second with another superb 257 in the second game.
The Singaporean continued to lead the pack at the halfway mark despite managing only 197 but his gap to the persuing Malaysian was reduced to just five pins. A second Malaysian, Ahmad Muaz moved up into third spot.
Ong stumbled to another poor game in the fourth and Ang took the opportunity to take over the running with 228 in the fourth game. Rafiq, who was gradually making up grounds, trailed his compatriot by eight pins.
Rafiq rolled a slightly better fifth game of 227 to move into the lead while Ang managed 215 to stay in contention, just four pins adrift. Indonesia's Yeri Ramadona fired two big games to take up third.