Ding Junhui and John Higgins both moved a step closer to the semi-finals of the Premier League with respective 4-2 victories over Mark Selby and Stephen Lee in Great Malvern.
As the tournament begins to edge toward the business end of the season, every victory and every frame won could be the difference between finishing in the top two in each group in order to progress to the play-off weekend or going home.
And it was China’s Ding who took full advantage in the night’s opening match as last year’s runner-up raced into a 4-0 lead over the world no.1.
The 25 year-old looked in good knick at that stage as he assured himself the victory, growing more confident as the match went on and nearly compiling a century break in the fourth.
His concentration slipped thereafter and he rather carelessly let his opponent in with numerous chances to take the final two frames – which the Leicester man duly did.
Nonetheless, the triumph was enough to see Ding surge to the top of Group A, albeit having played a match more than all of his nearest rivals.
A showdown with fellow table-topper Neil Robertson will decide the former Masters champion’s fate with Stuart Bingham also still in the hunt for one of the two coveted spots.
For Selby, the second loss all but ends the 29 year-old’s chances of qualifying for the last four in November, needing a minor miracle and several things to go his way in order to advance.
In Group B’s encounter, Higgins won the final three frames of a terrible match with Lee to win 4-2 as well.
Both players were far from their best, indeed probably closer to their worst, from the outset but it appeared that Lee, who lost his opening two matches 5-1, was going to have the better of proceedings when he took a 2-1 lead.
But Higgins dug deep and played a little better thereafter to establish a 3-2 advantage and guarantee himself a point.
PTC Grand Finals champion Lee had several opportunities in the decider to level it up but a succession of botched shots put paid to that.
In fact, Lee’s attempts were so bad that it has garnered a little bit of controversy on the old interweb with some on Twitter, including Judd Trump, questioning the commitment of his efforts.
From my point of view, the entire match was turgid from both players’ perspective so the final acts of mediocrity only cemented the fact.
At any rate, Lee’s out and Higgins goes joint top of the table with Trump on four points.