Stephen Maguire beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in a dramatic quarter-final that ended on a re-spotted black in the deciding frame at the China Open in Beijing.
The Scot lost to O’Sullivan in an exciting German Masters final in February but reversed the scoreline in the Far East to continue his return to form in 2012.
In a match including an array of big breaks coupled with twists and turns, Maguire never surrendered the lead after establishing an early 2-0 advantage with breaks of 76 and 57.
O’Sullivan squared the encounter at the mid-session interval with an 88 and 60 before the next four frames were shared – the ‘Rocket’ with a top run of 102 – to ensure a nail-biting finale.
It looked for all money that the former world number one was going to steal it at the most pivotal moment before he unexpectedly missed match ball red and, after Maguire cleared for a re-spotted black, the 31 year-old trebled the clinching ball to creep into the last four.
After winning the final PTC event of the campaign just after the New Year, Maguire reached the final of Berlin, quarters of the Welsh Open and the semi-finals of both the PTC Grand Finals and here.
So the 2008 champion will be feeling confident both ahead of this weekend’s play and looking ahead to the upcoming World Championship in Sheffield and, in most other circumstances, would be considered the form player on the circuit.
However, that accolade, without doubt, goes to his next opponent, Stephen Lee.
This time last year Lee was outside the world’s Top 16 – just about regaining the form of past glory years but not quite enough to march his way back into the game’s elite, not to mention the business end of tournaments.
That has all changed in the last couple of months with Lee being an ever-present figure on the television screens and boasting a win-loss record in ranking events this year of 17-3.
Today’s 5-3 victory over defending champion Judd Trump was another excellent display from the Englishman that included back-t0-back centuries to get back into the clash from 2-0 down.
From there, the victor in Galway two weeks ago controlled the match for the most part and a cool 96 sealed another memorable triumph over a top star for the 37 year-old.
People will probably continue to write off Lee for the Crucible but he has proven this week that winning breeds confidence and, better yet, it becomes a habit.
I’ll maintain that it remains questionable whether or not he’ll have the stamina for the longer formats but it’s hard to dispel him from the conversation of contenders completely at this stage.
In the other half of the draw in China, Ding Junhui saw off Ali Carter 5-2 in relatively comfortable fashion to the delight of his legion of fans.
Ding was 4-0 down to Ben Woollaston in the opening round but managed to come through that before having the added bonus of a bye into the last eight following Mark Selby’s injury.
Having often been labelled as a player that struggles in his home territory, Ding may now be thinking that his name is already etched on the trophy for this year.
Ding will have to do it the hard way to reach the final, though, after veteran Peter Ebdon came through a marathon encounter with Neil Robertson 5-3.
Ebdon had already knocked out Matthew Stevens and John Higgins to get to this stage and was absolute granite, as usual, to frustrate the Australian in a match lasting four hours.
The full draw and results for the China Open can be viewed by clicking here.