Only two top 16 seeds remain in the hunt for UK Championship glory after another pair of favourites fell in the fourth round on Wednesday.
John Higgins and Mark Allen were the latest casualties in an event that is increasingly looking like it’s going to go one of two ways.
The first is that it could be the first time in literally decades that a shock champion is crowned.
The other, perhaps more obvious, eventuality is that the tournament is falling neatly into the hands of Ronnie O’Sullivan as he bids for a record-equalling sixth UK title at the Barbican Centre this week.
Higgins represented a sorry sight, both on the table and afterwards in his post-match interviews when he seemed to morbidly suggest that this was the beginning of the end for his illustrious career.
The Scot has been written off countless times in the past by others before ultimately silencing the doubters, but it’s unusual to hear the four-time world champion speaking of his own inevitable demise so forlornly.
Higgins threw away 4-2 and 5-4 advantages in the last 16 as Mark King overturned the “Wizard of Wishaw” in a decider to book a quarter-final berth for only the third time in his career.
Allen, arguably the best current player on the Main Tour without a Triple Crown trophy to his name, will have to endure further wait after being ousted in an entertaining encounter with Joe Perry 6-4.
The pair traded big breaks – in fact, Allen compiled century runs of 135 and 134 – but it was the Masters runner-up Perry who held on to just about see off the Northern Irishman.
Perry will meet Stephen Maguire for a spot in the semi-finals after the 2004 champion dispatched of Graeme Dott 6-2 in an all-Scottish affair.
Maguire has played confidently all week and will prove a dangerous opponent if he can maintain his form, but that’s always a big “if” when the Glaswegian is concerned.
The 36 year-old obviously has a certain fondness for the UK Championship, though, having now reached the last eight stage for the ninth time since his devastating triumph 13 years ago.
Back in the top half of the draw, Ryan Day held on to pip Li Hang despite losing a couple of key close frames on the colours that could have swung the match in his challenger’s favour.
Li, a much-improved player this season and boosted by a semi-final appearance in the China Championship, almost constructed a maiden 147 break but disappointingly broke down on the yellow in the second frame.
Later, the match was all about Day’s scoring but an inability to translate all of those contributions into frame wins.
The Welshman tallied knocks of 54, 67, 65, 60, and 53 but only collected three of those frames as Li forced a decider.
However, Day saved his best for last with a superb 138 to reach the quarter-finals, where he’ll be a huge favourite to embark on a run to the last four of a major for the first time when he takes on Mark Joyce or Lyu Haotian.
The success for Day also pushed him ahead of Liang Wenbo in the Race to the Masters.
The Chinese no.2 is now looking over his shoulders with a group of players behind him in the standings still in with a chance of stealing the last invitation to the Alexandra Palace.
Elsewhere on Thursday as the fourth round concludes, O’Sullivan faces Akani Songsermsawad in a clash of styles, Shaun Murphy tackles a resurgent Ricky Walden, and Martin Gould meets Xiao Guodong.
Live coverage continues on the BBC and Eurosport.
Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)
Categories: Snooker News