The World Grand Prix is down to its final eight contenders after an entertaining few days at the Guild Hall in Preston.
The quarter-finals boasts an extremely tasty line-up that will get under way later on Thursday with favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan in action against Xiao Guodong.
The top seed edged young Chinese hotshot Yan Bingtao in the last 16 on Wednesday evening with Xiao similarly advancing courtesy of his second deciding frame clincher of the week – beating four-time world champion John Higgins 4-3.
O’Sullivan holds a 3-1 head-to-head advantage over Xiao but this will be their first encounter at this latterly stage of a ranking tournament.
The “Rocket”, who will undoubtedly be a strong favourite in the now increased format of best nine frames, is bidding for a fourth ranking crown of the season this week having already accumulated almost half a million pounds in prize money from the campaign so far.
O’Sullivan previously finished runner-up in the World Grand Prix three years ago when it was then staged as an invitational.
The champion from 2016 is also scheduled to play tonight with Shaun Murphy involved in an intriguing battle with Stephen Maguire.
The pair hasn’t always seen eye to eye throughout their careers, albeit more has often been made of their rivalry than has actually proven to be accurate on any meaningful level.
Still, there’s bound to be a bit of bite to the occasion and the typically fired up Maguire will have extra motivation as he attempts to move back into the top 16 in the world rankings in time to secure automatic qualification for the World Championship later this term.
Murphy has enjoyed the better of their prior clashes and in fact whitewashed the Scotsman in their last affair during the China Championship last summer.
That event in Guangzhou was one of three during this season where the “Magician” has reached the final only to ultimately fall short at the last hurdle.
The 35 year-old has certainly been one of the best players of the season, though, defined by his wonderful Champion of Champions triumph at the expense of O’Sullivan in November.
On Friday afternoon, the remaining last eight ties will take place with world number one Mark Selby appearing ready to threaten for silverware again.
The world champion has been suffering from one of his worst spells on the circuit in years and was fortunate to emerge with victory in his opening match against Jimmy Robertson despite producing a mostly terrible performance.
However, Selby frequently improves as he moves through the rounds in tournaments and that was definitely evident in his 4-0 second round drubbing of Neil Robertson that included an excellent 134 in the first frame.
Selby will face Michael White for a semi-final berth after the Welshman also prevailed in a one-sided affair against Joe Perry.
White possesses an inferior record against the “Jester” but did manage to succeed in the duo’s last battle, when the former went on to claim the Paul Hunter Classic title in 2017.
Ding Junhui and Anthony McGill play in the other quarter-final encounter that pits two players who have endured up and down seasons together.
They have both featured at the business end of tournaments, most notably when Ding claimed the World Open trophy in September, but they have also both crashed out with limp displays in the early stages of several other competitions.
Ding and McGill have met only twice in the past with the Chinese number one coming out on top each time, including in the final of a European Tour event in 2012.
Live coverage of the World Grand Prix continues on ITV4.
Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)