Ding Junhui came from 3-1 down to deny Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in a quarter-final decider in the World Grand Prix on Friday.
The Chinese sensation compiled breaks of 51, 65 and an excellent 108 in the last to see off the Thai and maintain his recent resurgence.
Remarkably, this marks Ding’s maiden appearance in the semi-finals of a ranking event this season, and only his third in total since his record-breaking five ranking titles in the 2013/14 campaign.
This has led to a dramatic fall from a brief spell at no.1 in the world to provisionally outside the world’s top 16 and in danger of missing out on automatic qualification for the World Championship.
However, with his stronger performances in this week’s lucrative tournament in Wales, Ding has already guaranteed himself £20,000 and is within one victory of leapfrogging compatriot Liang Wenbo back into the elite bracket.
Ding has often been criticised for producing poor form at the Crucible, with only one semi-final to his name despite an otherwise glittering career, but perhaps this year he’s playing himself into contention at just the right time.
In Llandudno, the 28 year-old will face Shaun Murphy for a final berth after the latter hammered Liang 4-0 with four breaks above 50.
Murphy himself has had a disappointing year by his high standards, failing to collect any trophy and boasting only one final appearance in a minor-ranking event at the outset of the campaign.
The pair has met often down the years, with Murphy holding a narrow head-to-head advantage but there’ll be a lot to play for and, with the format finally increased to best of 11, plenty more scope for twists and turns.
In the other semi-final world champion Stuart Bingham, a third player seeking to revive his fortunes, has fellow Englishman Joe Perry for company.
Bingham has been growing in confidence as he manouevres his way through the rounds, and came back well from behind against Ryan Day in the last eight to seal a 4-2 success – ending home hopes for a Welsh victory.
Perry, meanwhile, took advantage of a couple of timely flukes to easily dismantle Ali Carter’s challenge with a 4-1 triumph.
Basildon’s Bingham has been playing like a man with literally the world on his shoulders over the course of the last few months but this marks as a great opportunity to embark on another major final.
The 39 year-old didn’t even win a frame at this stage of the competition last year as he was whitewashed by Ronnie O’Sullivan, but he’ll fancy his chances a lot more against Perry.
That said, the duo’s most recent meeting came at this stage of the Players Championship Grand Final of 2015, which Perry won before going on to land his first ranking title.
Indeed, Perry enjoys the superior head-to-head record and is clearly in good form having also reached the semi-finals of the Welsh Open last month.
Two intriguing last four encounters then for the crowds, which again have been excellent in Llandudno, to enjoy.
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