Barry Hawkins and Stephen Maguire are into the quarter-finals of the UK Championship after respective victories over former world champions in York yesterday.
Crucible runner-up Hawkins emerged from a 6-5 thriller with Shaun Murphy while 2004 champion Maguire saw off fellow Scotsman John Higgins 6-3.
Murphy had struggled for form so far this season but earned himself two victories to give himself a chance of progressing far in a tournament he won five years ago.
The 31 year-old began well, taking the first two frames for an early lead, but Hawkins won the next two to make sure the honours were even at the mid-session interval.
Thereafter, the pair traded blow for blow as there was never more than one frame difference between them – Hawkins continuously edging the solitary frame in front.
And that proved to be the ultimate difference between the pair as a 70 in the decider sent the Englishman into the last eight.
It was a good scoring performance all round from the former Australian Open champion as he also had runs of 110, 106, 87 and 50.
Both players were potential champions in the making come Sunday so Murphy’s disappointment at losing will be contrasted simultaneously by the delight of the ‘Hawk’.
Likewise, Maguire will be ecstatic to be putting up a solid showing at the Barbican having only won a handful of matches in ranking events this campaign prior to the UKs.
The Scot was also scoring well and he compiled the highest break of the tournament so far with a beautiful 142 total clearance in the sixth frame to lead 4-2.
By then Maguire was in control of the contest and he took two of the next three frames for a well-deserved triumph.
Maguire has had a fully respectable career so far by most people’s standards but one suspects that his potential is yet unfulflilled.
The 32 year-old will be hoping to add a few more majors to his repertoire soon and rejoin the elite at the top of the rankings.
The rest of the line-up for the fourth round was completed yesterday and what a selection of competitors it is.
Only two of the top 16 seeds – Marco Fu and Mark Davis – have failed to reach this stage.
One of those is Joe Perry, a constant member in or around this bracket for the last decade or so, while the other is Ireland’s David Morris.
Morris may be ranked in the 90s but his form this season since regaining his Main Tour card would suggest that he will be shooting up the standings in the next couple of years.
The Kilkenny cueist made his maiden quarter-final appearance at the season’s opener in Wuxi and is now only one match away from repeating the trick after a 6-1 drubbing of Mitchell Travis in the third round.
Travis, the amateur who knocked out Australian Open champion Fu, had a wonderful event but his surprising run eventually came to an end against solid matchplay snooker from Morris.
The 25 year-old kept things tight and scored four half-century breaks as he romped to a second successive five-frame victory.
Morris will surely face stiffer opposition in the shape of Stuart Bingham next but he’ll be confident enough to give the Champion of Champions finalist a run for his money.
The rest of the results in the last 32 went true to form, with favourites Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, Mark Selby and Ding Junhui all progressing.
World champion O’Sullivan and world no.1 Robertson didn’t have it all their own way early on in their respective ties but played better as each developed – especially O’Sullivan, who fired in two centuries and a 68 after the mid-session interval with Marcus Campbell.
Defending champion Selby and ranking event supremo Ding had things their own way, though, in 6-0 and 6-1 triumphs over Stuart Carrington and Dublin’s Fergal O’Brien respectively.
There were a pair of deciders in the morning session that went unseen because of a peculiar broadcasting plan that has resulted in the first sessions of the day not being televised in Ireland and the UK.
Ricky Walden produced a beautiful 137 break in the last frame against Mark Williams while Mark Allen just pipped Michael Holt in a high-quality affair 6-5 as well.
Finally, Robert Milkins secured his invitation to the Masters with a 6-2 defeat of former champion Matthew Stevens.
The climax to this edition of the UK Championship promises to be a fantastic spectacle and we are now down to the more intimate two-table set-up inside the arena – which is sure to enhance what has already been a vibrant atmosphere in the Barbican already.
The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.