John Higgins and Mark Williams will play each other in the fourth round of the Bulgarian Open after passing their opening three tests in Sofia on Saturday.
The duo, who have famously locked horns so many times throughout their illustrious careers, each manoeuvred their way through some tricky ties in order to set up the mouthwatering Sunday morning clash.
Among Higgins’ victories was a 4-3 success over David Gilbert, who the Scot beat only a matter of days ago to lift the lucrative International Championship trophy in China.
Williams, meanwhile, scored heavily as he ousted fellow Welshman Jamie Jones and young Oliver Lines to continue his tilt at a first European Tour title since he won the Rotterdam Open back in 2013.
Higgins and Williams have met each other almost 50 times since they turned professional together more than two decades ago in 1992, but haven’t crossed paths in a tournament carrying ranking points since their famous battles in the 2010 UK Championship final and the subsequent World Championship semi-final of 2011.
On both those occasions Higgins marginally got the better of his opponent, memorably in the former when he came from 9-5 down to prevail 10-9 upon his return to the sport from suspension, and he’ll undoubtedly be the marginal favourite once again given the 40 year-old’s pedigree of late.
Elsewhere, two other regular European Tour winners maintained their quest in the fourth edition of this season’s series as Mark Allen and Shaun Murphy progressed unscathed.
Allen had the trickier path, having to come from behind to dispatch of world champion Stuart Bingham in a last 64 decider, while Murphy only dropped one frame before his 4-2 triumph over amateur Hammad Miah guaranteed his spot in Sunday’s showdown.
The pair are seeded to meet in the last four should they get that far, but Northern Ireland’s Allen must first get past Michael Holt while Murphy has Stuart Carrington standing in his way.
The remaining two competitors to advance to the final day were veteran Mike Dunn and Daniel Wells of Wales, who is slowly but surely, after years of failure on the tour, beginning to translate his talent into some positive results.
Yesterday, the 27 year-old recorded impressive victories over Xiao Guodong and Gary Wilson while among Dunn’s wins was a 4-3 defeat of Robert Milkins.
With the likes of Judd Trump and Mark Selby in the top half of the draw having already come through from Friday’s initial bout of action, the Bulgarian Open could be in for a high-quality and dramatic conclusion.