The China Open has been whittled down to the final 16 players after a busy opening few days in Beijing.
Many of the heavy-hitters are still in the mix, albeit Ronnie O’Sullivan suffered a surprising 5-4 loss to Mark Joyce in the second round on Wednesday.
The “Rocket” knocked in a brace of centuries but could never get in front of his fellow Englishman, who superbly maintained a one-frame cushion throughout the contest.
The result denied the prospect of a mouthwatering clash between O’Sullivan and home favourite Ding Junhui, who made light work of compatriot Zhou Yuelong in a whitewash win.
Ding and World Snooker have come to blows this week over some controversy surrounding the former’s desire to wear a logo on his waistcoat prior to his qualifying round victory over Sean O’Sullivan.
World Snooker released a peculiar statement on Tuesday, originally littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, which rebutted comments made by Ding and O’Sullivan that nobody, at the time, had appeared to have seen or heard.
Regardless of all that, Ding appears to be hitting form at just the right time – similar to twelve months ago when he went on to reach the World Championship final – and will be a strong favourite against Joyce to progress to the last eight.
Defending champion Judd Trump and world number one Mark Selby also advanced with a minimum of fuss to set up meetings with Tian Pengfei and Andrew Higginson respectively.
Along with Ding, Tian is the only remaining Chinese competitor remaining after he knocked out Martin Gould to end the former German Masters champion’s ambitions of breaking into the top 16 before the World Championship.
The qualifiers at Ponds Forge will also be the destination for Ricky Walden, who needed to match his runner-up finish in China from 2016 to deny Ryan Day an automatic berth at the Crucible, but surrendered the last four frames as he crashed out to Higginson 5-4.
The only two players who can now dislodge Day are Mark Williams and Stephen Maguire, who both need to emerge triumphantly with the trophy and, more importantly, the £85,000 to do so.
Welshman Williams, a record three-time China Open champion, plays in the tie of the third round against old adversary John Higgins.
2008 champion Maguire, meanwhile, will fancy his chances to edge a step closer against an opponent in Daniel Wells who has reached this stage of a ranking event for only the second time in his career.
Elsewhere, Shaun Murphy plays Michael White while Stuart Bingham entertains Kyren Wilson, representing a quartet of proven champions who have quietly gone about their business so far, somewhat under the radar.
Rounding off the last 16 is an encounter between Rory McLeod and Hossein Vafaei Ayouri, who both have earned priceless victories this week in their mission for tour safety.
McLeod probably would have been secure enough anyway but the £8,000 he has earned with wins against Liang Wenbo and Mike Dunn have propelled him far away from the top 64 cut-off point in the world rankings.
Vafaei similarly has cause for celebration as, even though it’s unlikely he’ll break into the top 64, the Iranian now heads a separate Order of Merit list where the top eight players, who are not already guaranteed tour survival, will receive a fresh two-year card.
Of course, both McLeod and Vafaei will have their sights firmly set on this tournament with the former seeking to reach a ranking event quarter-final for the first time in his career at the age of 46.
All eight encounters take place on Thursday with live coverage continuing on Eurosport and Quest TV.