Quarter-Finals in Preston

The penultimate day of the Players Championship Grand Final sees the round of the last 8 take place with one notable exception to the line-up at the Guild Hall.

Ronnie O’Sullivan, so often supreme this season in capturing major titles such as the Masters, Champion of Champions and the Welsh Open, had a rare stumble in his encounter with China’s Yu Delu and was duly defeated in a 4-3 thriller.

Despite compiling a wonderful 140 break to lead 3-2, the ‘Rocket’ had barely any opportunity to score in the encounter’s final two frames and was sent crashing out early to the world no.48.

In overcoming the world champion, 26 year-old Yu reaches the quarter-final of a ranking event for the first time in his career and his reward is a clash with the player O’Sullivan conquered to lift his fifth Crucible crown last May – Barry Hawkins.

Hawkins had a similarly tricky time of things in his bout with Ryan Day, eventually pipping the Welshman 4-3 on the final black in a match that finished well past midnight.

Hawkins will fancy his chances now to go on and at least make another semi-final but his challenger’s confidence will no doubt be rocketing sky-high following his run this week.

The other tie in the bottom half of the draw has former world no.1 Judd Trump taking on Joe Perry.

Perry has been in mixed form of late, reaching the quarters in Germany and the last four in Wales but being dumped out early in both the latter Chinese events.

However, after scrapping his way to a deciding frame victory over Mark Davis in the opening round the Englishman saw off countryman David Gilbert yesterday in a high-quality affair.

Gilbert had a break of 87 but runs of 98, 128, 53 and 61 from Perry ensured that the former didn’t have too much further table time.

Trump is another player trying to find his former formidable self, but did manage to knock in four half-centuries in a whitewash win over the in-form Shaun Murphy.

The top half of the draw, which actually looked like the weaker side prior to yesterday, now looks decidedly difficult.

Mark Allen prevailed in an all-Ireland bout with Fergal O’Brien yesterday and must now contend with an all-Northern Ireland match-up with former World Cup teammate Gerard Greene.

40 year-old Greene, originally from Kent, arguably had the most dramatic victory on the third day in Preston as he came from 3-0 behind to oust Anthony Hamilton in a decider.

One feels that the former Grand Prix semi-finalist cannot afford to let that happen against Allen if he wants to repeat his best performance in a ranker.

Finally, probably the match of the round is between Scotland’s John Higgins and Marco Fu of Hong Kong.

Four-time world champion Higgins has been steadily regaining some form after more than half the season in the doldrums while, aside from the big three of O’Sullivan, Robertson and Ding, Fu has been one of the standout players of this campaign.

Both players enjoyed 4-2 wins on Thursday but it was Fu in particular who looked sharp in his victory over Mark Williams.

Either way, the competition promises to be fierce on Friday as the octet hope to reach the final day where a cool ¬£100,000 winner’s cheque is up for grabs.

The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.

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