The 2014 Coral UK Championship has reached the quarter-final stage with three former champions still in with a shout of glory come Sunday night in York.
Of those, the overwhelming favourite is Ronnie O’Sullivan, who engineered an enthralling 147 break in his 6-0 whitewash win over Matthew Selt on Thursday.
It marked the 13th occasion that the ‘Rocket’ recorded the feat, extending his own record, and will earn him a cool £44,000 should nobody else repeat the trick at the Barbican Centre this week.
O’Sullivan was rarely in trouble until the colours, when he was left wanting for ideal position a couple of times and almost overcut the blue to the centre pocket.
Afterwards, O’Sullivan, who celebrates his 39th birthday today, admitted that he was “shaking like a leaf” as the break neared its conclusion – even a genius suffers from pressure!
But pressure makes diamonds, and O’Sullivan undoubtedly remains snooker’s jewel in the crown.
The four-time champion began this tournament amid suggestions he may have to withdraw due to a broken ankle he sustained while running in the days leading up to the championship.
O’Sullivan initially played through the pain barrier and, with the help of some rest and physio, is odds-on to claim his fifth title an amazing seven years after his last triumph.
Arguably helping the world no.4’s cause is the fact that Australian Neil Robertson is out having been already accounted for by Graeme Dott.
O’Sullivan faces a different Scot first, with John Higgins’ conqueror Anthony McGill standing in his way of a semi-final berth.
23 year-old McGill, featuring in only his second ranking event quarter-final, represents one of a large band of young players who could boast a successful future in the game.
Yet, it will take a big effort from the Glaswegian to overcome an O’Sullivan who simply doesn’t look like he knows how to lose on British soil.
In 2014, O’Sullivan has won the Masters, the Welsh Open and the Champion of Champions; his solitary defeat at home came in the final of the World Championship in May when he somewhat atypically let a huge lead over Mark Selby slip.
It will probably take a monumental effort from one of the seven other competitors to deny the Chigwell cueist his latest victory.
That said, there is still plenty of quality left in the draw and O’Sullivan certainly wont have it all his own way.
2006 world champion Dott faces Stuart Bingham in an encounter that has more than simply a UK Championship semi-final at stake.
Dott, featuring in only his third last eight appearance in the UKs, will be well aware that defeating the Shanghai Masters will potentially earn him an invitation to play in The Masters next month.
In the duo’s head-to-head there has never been more than two frames between them in six meetings, with the score standing at three wins apiece, so expect a close one there.
The bottom half of the draw includes two former champions.
2004 winner Stephen Maguire put an end to Irishman David Morris’ challenge yesterday, acquiring the last three frames in a 6-3 scoreline.
Regardless of a second loss at the last 16 stage in as many years, Morris should be delighted with his displays again.
Some further consistency and the 26 year-old, who is already approaching the top 50, will be shooting up the rankings before the campaign’s climax.
For Maguire, it continues a resurgence in form which started a couple of weeks ago when he embarked on a run to the last four of the Ruhr Open.
The 33 year-old does have silverware to his name this season, having walked away with the 6-Reds World Championship in the summer, but he’ll be desperate to return to the winners enclosure in the traditional format.
Maguire’s fifth and last ranking event came almost two years ago at the 2013 Welsh Open, but his consistency overall in the last five or six years has perpetually fluctuated.
The Scot, one of three still left in the draw, has always had the talent to live up to his nickname ‘On Fire’ but sometimes not the temperament.
Ironically, his opponent on Friday is somebody who has a reputation of being one of the most level-headed performers on the circuit – Marco Fu.
The Hong Kong native enacted a certain degree of revenge on Shaun Murphy for his 2008 final defeat by ousting the Englishman 6-5 in a dramatic tie yesterday.
Finally, 2011 champion Judd Trump faces fellow Englishman Mark Davis.
Trump was involved in a thrilling Champion of Champions final with O’Sullivan last month in Coventry and a lot of fans will be hoping for a repeat match-up between the pair.
At this point, the 25 year-old might be the only player capably of stopping the maximum man.