Former world champion Ken Doherty took advantage of a depleted field in the Gibraltar Open to reach the fourth round on Friday at the Victoria Stadium.
The Gibraltar Open, in its final year of a three-year contract, already lacked the financial pull to attract most of the sport’s top stars but several more players, including defending champion Shaun Murphy, announced late withdrawals on the eve of the event.
It ensured that an already open looking competition became even more difficult to predict and Doherty was duly among some of the lower ranked players to enjoy a run through the early rounds.
The Irishman edged amateur Andreas Ploner in the first round before whitewashing Kurt Maflin and securing a tight 4-3 triumph over fellow veteran Dominic Dale in the last 32 that dramatically went all the way to the final black.
Doherty advances to Sunday’s final day of action in Gibraltar to face Stuart Bingham, who will arguably be regarded as the favourite now to go on and lift the trophy and the £25,000 top prize.
Two other top 16 members are still involved in the top half of the draw, though, with Kyren Wilson and Anthony McGill threatening to bolster their trophy cabinets.
McGill began the day with a hard-fought 4-3 victory over Paul Davison before overcoming David Grace and Oliver Line while among Wilson’s victims were Daniel Wells and former World Championship semi-finalist Andy Hicks.
Matthew Selt will be Wilson’s next opponent after the Englishman dispatched of Liang Wenbo in the third round while McGill will meet Welshman Lee Walker, with a quarter-final berth at stake.
Meanwhile, Scottish Open runner-up Cao Yupeng manoeuvred his way through the early stages with a trio of close successes over fellow Chinese cueist Yuan Sijun, Matthew Stevens, and Sam Craigie.
The 27 year-old will battle with countryman Yu Delu, who counted former pro Jamie Cope among the players he ousted, in the last 16.
On Saturday, the bottom half of the draw will get whittled down to complete the final line-up for Sunday, when the champion will ultimately be crowned.
The likes of Luca Brecel, Ricky Walden, Michael White, and Jimmy White are expected to be involved.