Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson remain on course for a showdown in the China Open final on Sunday – but fellow top 3 player Mark Selby was dumped out in the quarter-finals in Beijing.
World no.2 Selby had begun his match with fellow Englishman Mike Dunn as the overwhelming favourite but was downed 5-3 by the Middlesbrough man.
With the shock victory, Dunn, a professional on the Main Tour for more than 20 years, reaches his maiden ranking event semi-final at the tender age of 42.
Dunn had seriously considered retiring from the game not long ago after a disastrous spell in which he failed to win a match in over a year.
However, he has performed a little better during this campaign, reinvigorating his chances of staying inside the world’s top 64 that gain automatic entry onto the circuit for next season.
With his spectacular run to the last four, Dunn has ensured that eventuality now is all but certain and he can look forward to both the rest of this event and the prospect of attempting to qualify for the World Championship for a second time.
Before that, he will be hoping that he can continue his progress in the Far East and potentially go on and lift his first piece of silverware.
Despite an impressive win over Selby, that remains highly unlikely with such stiff competition remaining in the draw.
Standing in Dunn’s way of that dream final is home favourite Ding Junhui, after the 26 year-old overcame Mark King 5-2 on Friday.
Ding is looking to equal Stephen Hendry’s record of five ranking event titles in a single season following triumphs at the Shanghai Masters, Indian Open, International Championship and German Masters.
The Chinese’s first opportunity to do so came at the Welsh Open in February, where he came up short against a formidable foe in Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final.
There’s no ‘Rocket’ standing in Ding’s way this time around, however, and even though he has not been playing at his most fluent best this week his battling qualities have once again come to the fore in his native surroundings.
Ding once buckled under the pressure of playing in front of his legion of fans but now he seems to relish it having won twice in China already this season.
Dunn will fight hard, as he has done throughout his entire career, but realistically Ding will be delighted that he is playing the lowly ranked veteran as opposed to his next door neighbour in the standings, Selby.
The other semi-final clash will be contested between Neil Robertson and Ali Carter after respective 5-3 victories over Graeme Dott and Ricky Walden.
Twice Crucible runner-up Carter is having by far and away his most productive tournament of a difficult year in which he has battled cancer and also his long-term Crohn’s disease.
And there’s no saying that he cant continue his run as even though Robertson has fought gallantly, despite feeling the affects of a virus, to advance through the rounds, the Australian hasn’t produced the heavy scoring power that has almost defined his campaign.
Indeed, Robertson’s quest for a century of tons has almost become so talked about that the immediate information sought after one of his results is whether or not he added to his tally, rather than if he actually won or lost.
Well, at any rate he didn’t add to his 92 so far and, while it looked a foregone conclusion a couple of events ago, the landmark now looks increasingly more difficult to achieve.
As for the upcoming matter of his last four clash, one feels that Robertson, after playing all but one frame that’s possible this week, will suffer the consequences and that Carter could have the slight edge over the world no.1.