John Higgins produced a sterling fight back against Judd Trump to reach the quarter-finals of the World Open on Thursday.
In a match of the highest break-building, the four-time world champion found himself 4-0 down at the interval following breaks of 100, 63, 110 and 68 from his opponent, Trump looking in much better form after his scrappy 5-4 victory over Matthew Stevens.
Higgins amassed only 17 points in the opening exchanges but replied in stunning fashion, forcing an unlikely decider with runs of 104, where he missed the penultimate red on course for a maximum, 89, 90 and 124.
Trump, left cold in his chair while he watched his lead disappear quickly, had the opening opportunity in the final frame but failed to gain position on the pink with the pack spread on 37 and Higgins capitalised with a break of 63 to complete the incredible turnaround.
Despite winning the Bulgarian Open and reaching the final of the Wuxi Classic at the start of the campaign, Higgins had endured a difficult time of things for the remainder of 2013.
However, the Scot has shown sings of improvement in the last month or so, also reaching the quarter-final of the Welsh Open.
On that occasion he ran into a formidable Ronnie O’Sullivan and this time he faces another stiff challenge in Mark Allen – a player who has now won 13 consecutive matches in Haikou.
The two-time defending champion had a comfortable enough time of it in a 5-2 win over Ricky Walden, results that are helping to ensure he guarantees his place in the World Championship without the unwanted necessity of going through the qualifiers.
In a high-quality day of snooker in China, there were two other thrillers that went the distance.
There were four centuries in the Higgins and Trump encounter, and although world no.1 Neil Robertson and Marco Fu couldn’t play to the same ferocious pace as that pair – average frame time of 12 minutes – both ranking event winners served up a quartet of tons in an equally enthralling contest all the same.
Fu compiled three of those – a 121, 127 and 114 – to lead 4-2 but Robertson replied to force the decider only to be pipped in the most agonising of circumstances, on a re-spotted black.
Robertson, O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui have been the standout players of the season by a mile but Fu has enjoyed a successful one by his own right, beating Robbo to prevail in the Australian Open and only narrowly losing to Ding in the final of the International Championship.
The Hong Kong native will fancy his chances of going further in the World Open as well as he faces Mark Joyce for a place in the semi-finals after the Englishman came through a 5-3 winner over Kurt Maflin.
The other 5-4 clash went in favour of Shaun Murphy, who halted Ding Junhui’s quest to equal Stephen Hendry’s record of five ranking event titles in a single season with a battling victory.
The Englishman led 3-1 and 4-3 but Ding fought gallantly, as he has done all year to achieve his success, to force the shoot-out and even continued scrapping when he needed three snookers at the death.
But Murphy, who beat Ding in the Masters in January and then went on to lift the Gdynia Open trophy in Poland, held firm for a confidence-boosting win.
The Englishman will meet fellow former world champion Graeme Dott on Friday after the Scot came from 2-1 behind to Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, who himself missed the final pink for a 147, to advance 5-2.
Meanwhile, the final quarter-final will be contested between Mark Selby and Alan McManus following a brace of 5-1 triumphs for the duo over Liang Wenbo and Dominic Dale respectively.