The first round of the World Championship concluded on Thursday as English duo Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy completed the last 16 line-up in Sheffield.
Both of these players’ names have been frequently bandied around as potential champions given the strong seasons that both have produced.
Trump has won two tournaments, including the World Grand Prix, and been runner-up in an additional three while Murphy has been a finalist in four events with a hat-trick of titles to his credit – the prestigious Masters being one of them.
The pair is known for their attacking prowess and that showed in their respective victories over Stuart Carrington and Robin Hull.
Trump and Murphy shared 7-2 advantages overnight but, in fact, the climax to their encounters couldn’t have been much different.
2005 Crucible champion Murphy wrapped up his win over Finland’s Hull before there was even a need for the last mid-session interval, eventually marching onto the next stage 10-3 with a 111 in the last frame.
Trump, though, was forced to withstand a sterling fight back from debutant Stuart Carrington.
In a superb second session that boasted breaks of 97, 74, 74, 70, 76, 99 and 109 in successive frames, the qualifier caused a lot more problems than many would have expected.
However, Trump was always able to rely on the big gap he had already established and the fact that Carrington was never able to get to within two frames was telling.
Trump’s ton in the final frame ensured that he progressed with a 10-6 victory and a solid workout going into the rest of the fortnight.
It would not be all that surprising to see a final match-up between Murphy and Trump but, such is the standard of the draw, it is going to be increasingly difficult to predict each encounter’s winner.
Indeed, only three of the top 16 seeds were knocked out in the first round – two of them by Graeme Dott and Matthew Stevens who have featured in five Crucible finals between them.
Some will point to the fact that the qualifiers were forced to play three rounds in order to reach the main venue so close to the tournament itself as the reason for the higher ranked dominance.
Others will argue that the level among the higher echelon is simply greater than that of the chasing pack.
In reality, the cause is probably somewhere in between.
The second round got under way as well on the sixth day of action with two tight tussles developing.
Smiling Scot Anthony McGill demonstrated that his defeat of Stephen Maguire was no fluke as he shared the opening eight frames with reigning champion Mark Selby.
Meanwhile, John Higgins holds a narrow 5-3 lead over Ding Junhui after the Chinese claimed the last two frames of the session to add to an earlier 135.
With the ties now played over the best of 25 frames, a lot can still happen.