It’s down to the quarter-final stage at the UK Championship in York as eight players begin to seriously think they could be crowned champion on Sunday.
One person who will definitely not feature in the showpiece final will be the world champion, Ronnie O’Sullivan, after he went down in an entertaining clash with Stuart Bingham 6-4.
‘Ballrun’ avenged his defeat in the final of the recent Champion of Champions invitation event as it wasn’t to be a happy birthday for the ‘Rocket’, who turned 38 on Thursday.
Bingham took three out of the opening four frames to take a deserved 3-1 lead at the interval and despite O’Sullivan’s best efforts he was never able to get back on level terms.
After extending his advantage to 4-1, Bingham looked to be heading to an easier than expected victory but O’Sullivan took the next two frames in less than twenty minutes, including a mesmerizing and effortless 135 century, to immediately reduce his arrears to one frame again.
Indeed, the entire contest sped like lightning and the next two frames were shared – O’Sullivan making a second ton of 127 – to leave Bingham on the brink of glory.
By this point, Bingham was evidently showing a few signs of nerves as he neared beating his fellow Essex native for only the second time in his career – ironically, the other came in the same championship.
Yet, he held himself together surprisingly well, perhaps highlighting the confidence he now boasts following several consistent campaigns at the top, and a 41 in the tenth frame helped him seal a famous victory.
Bingham has never featured in one of the traditional major finals – World, UK, Masters – so he will certainly feel that this is a wonderful opportunity to make his maiden bow.
It doesn’t get any easier for the former Australian Open champion, though, as following the Crucible king is the world no.1 Neil Robertson.
Robertson had things much easier in his last eight encounter, coming through a 6-2 winner against a poor Stephen Maguire performance.
The Australian was solid and again added to his terrific tally of tons this season with a 128 to make it a total of 55 so far.
His Scottish opponent was out-of-sorts, though, with his pot success rate languishing in the low 80 percentile.
In the top half of the draw, Mark Selby and Ricky Walden will do battle in the last four after contrasting quarter-final clashes.
Leicester’s Selby, the defending champion, enjoyed an easy whitewash win in the previous round but it wasn’t to be that straight-forward against World runner-up Barry Hawkins.
The ‘Hawk’ superbly opened up a 5-3 cushion, aided by a 142 total clearance to equal the highest break of the tournament so far, but the ‘Jester’ dominated the next two frames to force the decider.
As expected, it was a nervy affair with both competitors having opportunities to put points on the board but it was Selby who came through, maintaining his prospect of donning consecutive crowns at the Barbican.
The former world no.1 will face Ricky Walden in the semi-finals after the World semi-finalist from last season overcame Mark Allen 6-2.
Walden compiled five half centuries with a top run of 96 and was always in control against the Northern Irishman.
Both semi-finals then consist of one proven champion and one player bidding to join the elite as a major championship winner.
It promises to be an exciting weekend with Robertson and Bingham going head-to-head first over the best of 17 frames on Friday.
The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.