Barry Hawkins and Liang Wenbo became the first semi-finalists in the World Grand Prix after emerging past two rounds at the Guild Hall on Thursday.
The rather peculiar scheduling for this event meant that the top half of the draw was forced to contest both the round of 16 and the quarter-finals on the same day.
Why this was necessary considering the bottom half of the draw had a complete day off is up for debate.
Regardless, Hawkins and Liang managed to survive unscathed as the favourites continued to crash out in Preston.
An excellent display from Hawkins ensured that he accounted for Judd Trump in the second round with runs of 86, 73, 72, and 65.
The Englishman subsequently defeated Neil Robertson, who previously knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan, with breaks of 85 and 81 helping the ‘Hawk’ to a 4-2 triumph.
Liang, meanwhile, had an even tougher time of it as he remained on course for a second ranking event title of the campaign – following his maiden success at the English Open in October.
The Chinese no.2 was in fine scoring fettle throughout the afternoon and evening as he first compiled breaks of 85, 62, and 52 in beating Mark Allen in a decider, before repeating the trick with a second successive 4-3 victory, this time over Joe Perry and accompanied by a brace of centuries.
The first session of play on Friday will see the conclusion of the last eight as defending champion Shaun Murphy meets Ryan Day, and Marco Fu clashes with Mark King.
Incredibly, this is the first time that Murphy and Day have crossed paths in a ranking event, and only their second overall meeting in professional competition.
Murphy is seeking a first trophy since he was crowned champion in this event almost 12 months ago, while Day is attempting to follow Anthony Hamilton in capturing a long overdue first ranking tournament.
Both cueists are prone to struggling with their consistency, though, so it’s not the easiest encounter to predict.
Fu and King’s meeting is a delight for budding comics everywhere, and it’s certainly difficult separate the pair, with four victories apiece in their head-to-head record.
Both players are bidding to collect their second pieces of silverware this season, with King’s triumph coming in the Northern Ireland Open and a Scottish Open win for Fu just before Christmas.
Fu will surely begin as the favourite given his general recent form, but King has proved a tough nut to crack since his morale-boosting resurgence in Belfast.