Fergal O’Brien is into the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters after a grafting 5-3 victory over local amateur Zhao Xintong.
The contest got off to a free-flowing start and the scores were tied at the mid-session interval following shared breaks of 80, 69, 61, 42 and 41, but the match developed into more of a war thereafter.
Zhao, last year’s World Amateur Championship runner-up, gained initiative in the fifth to take the lead and suggest that he was about to add another Main Tour victim to his collection this week following victories over Matthew Selt and Marco Fu.
However, O’Brien, as he so often does, dug deep and ground the match down to a stable pace in order to get the job done in dogged fashion.
It marks the first occasion since the Dubliner reached the final of the Northern Ireland in 2007 that he has made the last eight of a major ranking event.
It’s just reward for the 42 year-old, who continues to put in the hard graft in order to compete with the rest of the players on the circuit.
O’Brien has garnered a decent amount of success in the Players Tour Championship series but it has been a long time coming for him to feature in the business end of a tournament of this stature.
His reward is an encounter with world champion Mark Selby after the ‘Jester’ withstood a strong fight back from Michael Holt to also prevail with a 5-3 scoreline.
O’Brien will undoubtedly start as the underdog in that but his determination and will to slog it out until the opponent pots the last ball is similar to how Selby himself approaches the game – so we could be in for a long one there!
Elsewhere, it was another mixed day for the seeds.
In the second of Thursday’s sessions of play, defending champion Ding Junhui came from 2-0 down to overcome Martin Gould and continue his quest for a fourth ranking triumph on home soil in the last 12 months.
Six Red world champion Stephen Maguire, who many thought was emerging as a serious threat with the early exits of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump from his quarter of the draw, disappointed again as another superb display from fellow Scot Alan McManus sent him back home for his nation’s Vote for Independence sooner than expected.
McManus, though, will have to wait that little bit longer as thoughts turn to whether the veteran 1994 Masters champion could actually win his third ranking event – 18 years after claiming his second.
His form this season would suggest it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.
Earlier in the day, in a battle of the 2005 and 2006 world champions, Graeme Dott defeated Shaun Murphy to ensure that McManus’ opportunity of a place in the semi-final will be decided with another all-Scottish tie.
Meanwhile, Michael White turned in a devastating display of scoring power to beat his fellow Welshman Ryan Day 5-2.
White, who came from 3-0 down to beat Neil Robertson in the last 32, compiled runs of 104, 78, 128, 62, 71 and 55 in an unbelievable performance.
Finally, Mark Allen and Stuart Bingham booked their places in the quarter-finals with respective 5-1 victories over Mark Williams and Dominic Dale.