After a week of high drama, the 2014 World Championship qualifiers are at its final stage.
There are only 32 players remaining as they battle it out for the 16 remaining places on offer at this year’s Sheffield showdown.
Such is the strength in depth on the Main Tour these days, there are no fewer than six competitors who have battled it through three rounds already from the very first hurdle that began last Tuesday.
That it is impossible to write any of these players off, despite the fact they will now come up against those seeded between 17 and 32 in the world, is also testament to the enormous challenge of the pro circuit.
The World Championship brings out the best and worst in so many players every season.
The group who will contest the final round will be desperately hoping that their best is yet to come, for being able to walk through the Crucible curtains into the tremendous theatre of dreams is what it’s all about for any snooker enthusiast.
While there are at least half a dozen cueists going in lacking experience in the big games, five of the baizers waiting for their challenge are former world finalists – four of them having gone on to lift the special trophy.
Ken Doherty, Mark Williams, Peter Ebdon and Graeme Dott will be hoping to ignite their challenge at further glory, albeit what would be an unlikely one.
Irishman Doherty, champion in 1997, takes on 2013 hero Dechawat Poomjaeng for a place in Thursday’s draw for the last 32.
The Dubliner, by all accounts, has had a dreadful campaign that has seen him notch up only a handful of victories.
Thailand’s Poomjaeng, who beat Stephen Maguire in the opening round last season, hasn’t had a great season either but will be full of confidence after good wins already this week over Zhang Anda and Craig Steadman.
Doherty failed to qualify last year and he will be hoping to avoid a similar early exit this time around but he will have to play better if he is to avoid such an outcome.
Of the other former champions, two of them face qualifiers attempting to reach the main event all the way from round one.
Graeme Dott takes on the increasingly dangerous young Englishman Kyren Wilson while Peter Ebdon will do battle with perhaps the biggest surprise package in Finland’s Robin Hull.
The 39 year-old seemed to be resigned to the history books when he dropped off the tour for a second time in 2012 but he captured the European amateur title last year to regain his place again for another two-year stint.
And Hull is making the most of it, particularly now as three heavy wins over Tony Drago, Tian Pengfei and Ian Burns have brought him to the cusp of an unlikely progression.
Ebdon will be tough as nails as per usual but Hull, with more than a century of tons to his name, has proved that he can score heavily and should he do that on Wednesday he’ll stand a chance.
Twice champion Williams, meanwhile, must deal with a player who has a wealth of experience in Scotland’s Alan McManus.
Two-time semi-finalist McManus has enjoyed a return to form this season and will prove a very difficult test for Williams.
Elsewhere, Williams’ fellow Welshmen Matthew Stevens, himself a double Crucible runner-up, is up against Tom Ford while Liang Wenbo and Martin Gould, two players who would not feel out-of-place in the top 16, face each other in one of the standout ties of the round.
Of the others looking to go through all four rounds, Robbie Williams could be one of the favourites to do so but he still faces an ever-difficult task in dismantling the determined challenge of Dublin’s Fergal O’Brien.
Michael Wasley takes on Robert Milkins, the man unfortunate enough to be dumped into the qualifiers because of defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan’s honour as top seed, while Stuart Carrington, much improved on the tour this season, faces Ryan Day.
There is an all-Chinese clash between Xiao Guodong and Li Yan that will produce plenty of interest in the Far East.
The rest of the field consists of players closer to home, though.
Mark King vs Jamie Cope and David Gilbert vs Jimmy Robertson represent two interesting all-English affairs while there are a pair of Welsh former quarter-finalists hoping to get back to a familiar stomping ground of success in Michael White and Jamie Jones.
The latter found himself 9-4 down to Joel Walker in the second qualifying round but managed to squeeze through and his final hurdle is the ‘Hitman’ Michael Holt.
White faces Matthew Selt, Jamie Burnett is up against Ben Woollaston, with Dominic Dale and Andrew Higginson represent the final pairing.
There’s a lot to play for over the next couple of days at the Ponds Forge International Sports Centre.
This will be the last game of a long season for some of these players.
For others, it could be the beginning of a special and memorable run at the Crucible.
The World Championship, and all its potential for glory, awaits.