World Cup team-mates Ali Carter and Mark Selby beat last year’s finalists to progress to the final of the Wuxi Classic in China.
Carter enjoyed a relatively comfortable 6-3 victory over defending champion Shaun Murphy but his countryman was made to work a lot harder in a deciding frame defeat of local hero Ding Junhui.
The latter encounter was of particularly high quality – Selby completed a total clearance of 134 in frame five – with both players showing signs of early season form.
With the scores locked 2-2 at the mid-session interval, the ‘Jester from Leicester’ surged three clear and within only one frame of victory in speedy fashion.
However, Ding, who grew up in Wuxi, demonstrated his turnaround in temperament over the last 24 months and won the subsequent three frames to force a deciding frame shoot-out.
Indeed, in the tenth frame Ding needed a snooker before eventually wowing the partisan crowd with a tense and dramatic re-spotted black.
In the end, though, Selby got in first in the last frame and built up a sizeable lead that the two-time Masters champion was able to nurse home for a gritty win.
The defeat for Ding marks the first time in the tournament’s history that the Chinese sensation has not contested the final and will undoubtedly be disappointing for the 24 year-old despite his determined comeback.
Earlier, runs of 101, 87 and 58 were enough to aid Carter’s triumph over former world champion Murphy.
Murphy never really recovered from going 3-0 behind and Carter was able to build on that momentum throughout the rest of the encounter.
Tomorrow’s final between the two Englishmen will be interest in its own right but is doubly intriguing given the fact that the duo will be representing their country next week at the World Cup.
England were perhaps behind the likes of Wales, Scotland and China in the favourite stakes but their form may alter that perception and the confidence garnered over this week will surely stand them in good stead over the coming days in Thailand.