Luca Brecel compiled a gutsy 55 clearance to beat Mark Selby 6-4 and reach the semi-finals of the Champion of Champions in Coventry.
The Belgian, featuring in the lucrative invitational event for the first time following his maiden ranking success in China during the summer, joins Anthony Hamilton and Shaun Murphy in what is turning out to be a somewhat surprising final four line-up.
Like Hamilton on the opening day’s action on Monday, Brecel was arguably the outsider of a star-studded quarter that also featured Selby, Judd Trump, and Liang Wenbo.
However, the 22 year-old rose to the occasion in front of a big crowd at the Ricoh Arena that was thoroughly entertained.
Brecel hammered Trump 4-0 in the first round courtesy of breaks of 103, 105, and 87, and he moved into the last eight meeting with Selby boosted by a deserved standing ovation.
Despite a terrific opening score of 125 from Selby, who had denied Liang in a decider earlier on Wednesday afternoon, Brecel carried on from where he left off with runs of 57 and 70 taking him into an early 2-1 lead that he would ultimately never relinquish.
The China Championship winner then crucially snatched the frame before the mid-session interval on a re-spotted black to establish a 3-1 cushion.
Selby, who had only just made the long flight back to England from Daqing after his defence of the International Championship on Sunday, was understandably not at his best and lost two out of the next three to go to within the brink of defeat.
The world number one continued to fight on in trademark fashion, though, and it looked as though the occasion might be getting to his less experienced opponent when Selby won a couple of frames to get back to within a single frame at 5-4.
A subsequent 61 break in the tenth frame seemed to suggest that a decider was inevitable but Selby couldn’t secure the winning pot and Brecel brilliantly seized his opportunity by clearing the table to the black for a memorable triumph.
Brecel will meet Murphy in Friday’s first semi-final clash in what will be a repeat of their Guangzhou showdown in August.
Meanwhile, the last quarter of the draw will be settled on Thursday with just one more spot for the weekend’s play up for grabs.
It’s a humdinger too with all three former champions thrown into the same section.
Twice champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has been paired with Neil Robertson in the opening fixture, with the winner progressing to face either reigning champion John Higgins or his fellow Scot Anthony McGill.
Any of the four cueists has the credentials and the game to emerge victorious from this group but many will be hoping for what would be a mouthwatering last eight fixture between O’Sullivan and Higgins – which, of course, would be a repeat of last year’s final.
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