Stephen Lee whitewashed Mark Selby 4-0 to book his place in the semi-finals of the Players Tour Championship Grand Finals in Galway.
As said so often in the past couple of weeks, it has been a remarkable 2012 for Lee so far, who has now reached the last four in all but one of the ranking events staged in the calendar year.
In the fourth event in Wales Lee was on the brink of a semi-final place when, on an easy match-winning clearance, a mobile phone in the audience sounded to put him off.
Lee didn’t let that or his 10-1 drubbing at the hands of Mark Allen in the final of the World Open earlier this month get him down and is arguably playing the best snooker of his career at the age of 37.
The Englishman was always a promising amateur and enjoyed significant success at the end of the 1990s and the turn of the millennium with a number of high-profile tournament triumphs.
However, he struggled after claiming the Welsh Open in 2006, dropped out of the Top 16 in the world ranking two years later and it took him a couple of seasons to readjust to life on the Tour.
Lee, though, has been the perfect example of a player who has had his fortunes turned around following the influx of extra events since the arrival of Barry Hearn into the helm of the sport.
Like his good pal Matthew Stevens, Lee was always one of the most talented players on the circuit but, having fallen outside the elite bracket in rankings and forced to play in the confined cubicles of qualifying, it was difficult to re-establish himself when there were only six ranking events and gaps between tournaments of up to a few months.
Playing regularly has instilled new life into his confidence and he admitted as much in his press conference after today’s victory over the world number 1 – saying that he enjoys practicing now because he knows he has something to practice for.
A consistent performer in nearly all the PTC events across both seasons the series has been held, Lee seems to enjoy the short best of 7 format that requires a limited amount of stamina – something he may struggle with when the matches become longer at the World Championship in Sheffield.
Lee will need to beat Andrew Higginson to make it back-to-back ranking event finals after the latter overcame Xiao Guodong 4-1 in a match lacking any fluency.
Higginson has often failed to get past the last 32 or last 16 stages in tournaments so this will be a welcomed boost as he makes a concerted push to enter the Top 16 for the next campaign.
In the other half of the draw, Stephen Maguire held his nerve to edge Ricky Walden 4-3 in an entertaining battle.
Maguire looked to be control of proceedings at 3-1 and seemingly in great form but missed crucial balls in each of the next two frames to surrender his lead.
However, he got over the winning line in the decider and will face Australian Neil Robertson in a mouth-watering prospect after the former world champ beat practice partner Joe Perry 4-1.
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