Ronnie O’Sullivan heads a strong line-up that will contest the last eight of the Scottish Open this weekend in Glasgow.
The Englishman, a winner of three ranking titles in the last couple of months including the UK Championship last week in York, was on the verge of falling asleep at times during Thursday’s play but still managed a brace of victories to maintain his terrific run of form.
O’Sullivan was on the brink of a premature exit against Li Hang in the third round but dug deep to clinch a deciding frame success against the improving Chinese competitor, before overcoming Michael White 4-1 in the last 16.
It sets up an intriguing encounter with home favourite John Higgins after the Scot hammered Gerard Greene and Ashley Hugill with whitewash wins.
Higgins was in a desperate mood following his defeat to Mark King at the Barbican Centre just a week ago, even suggesting that it might be the beginning of the end for his long and illustrious career.
However, the 42 year-old admitted on Monday that watching O’Sullivan’s brilliance in the UK final the night before had inspired him to practice harder and he has certainly reaped the rewards with a rejuvenated attitude so far in this event.
It would be a touch ironic then if Higgins, one of O’Sullivan’s fiercest rivals down the years, was the man to end the Rocket’s streak of 11 straight wins in ranking event matches.
Higgins, untypically for a match involving his popular opponent, will likely have the majority of the local support on his side, albeit the atmosphere at the Emirates Arena has hardly been electric throughout the opening four days.
Working against the Indian Open champion is a dreadful record against O’Sullivan this season, having suffered four reverses in a row since the Hong Kong Masters in July.
The top half of the draw also includes Neil Robertson and Xiao Guodong, the latter withstanding a late fight back from Marco Fu to dispatch of the defending champion in a dramatic decider.
Xiao had let slip a 3-0 lead to see the Hong Kong cueist force his way back to make it a final frame shoot out.
He subsequently trailed by 59 points only to compile a gutsy 73 clearance to finally pinch the win.
In the last 64, Xiao required four snookers in his final frame against Gary Wilson before turning it around so perhaps the Chinese 28 year-old is beginning to think that his name is already etched on the silverware.
It’ll only get harder from here on out for the former Shanghai Masters runner-up, though.
Australia’s Robertson has put the disappointment of failing to gain an invite into the prestigious Masters behind him by reaching only his second quarter-final of the season.
The former world number one has a positive record against Xiao but did lose in their most recent fixture at the English Open in 2016.
Meanwhile, Stephen Maguire prolonged his hopes of glory on home turf by setting up a clash against Judd Trump on Friday.
The Glaswegian accounted for a couple of Chinese competitors to reach this stage of a ranking event for the second successive week, first coming from behind to deny Yan Bingtao in a decider before inflicting a 4-1 defeat on Xu Si in the fourth round.
Trump was also tested as he was forced all way by Elliot Slessor after a more comprehensive 4-0 drubbing of Michael Holt that featured a total clearance of 140.
Maguire and Trump enjoy a relatively even head-to-head record against each other but the latter has prevailed in each of their last four fixtures.
Finally, three-time ranking event winner Ricky Walden is back in a quarter-final of a ranking event for the first time in 14 months.
The 35 year-old, who has dropped to no.23 in the world rankings, has endured a horrible spell on the Main Tour having been dogged by injury and poor form.
Walden will face Cao Yupeng, one of the numerous players from China who have shown a vast improvement this campaign, for a semi-final berth.
The duo has met on five occasions and interestingly it’s Cao who has the marginally superior record with a 4-0 triumph in this term’s Riga Masters their most recent battle.
Live coverage continues on Eurosport and Quest TV.
Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)