Favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan fought back from 2-0 down to beat Ding Junhui 6-3 with a powerful performance in the quarter-finals of the Players Championship on Wednesday.
The world number two was well tested early on in the showdown, which was a repeat of the World Grand Prix final from last month in Preston, but gradually grew to dominate the game with some prolific scoring.
After dropping the opening couple of frames, O’Sullivan finally got on the board in a scrappy third before a wonderful 134 – the highest break of the tournament so far – brought parity to the scores at the mid-session interval.
O’Sullivan moved in front for the first time after the restart and, even though Ding scored an excellent 119 century break of his own, O’Sullivan added two further tons to romp away with the victory.
It all means that the “Rocket” is now only two wins shy of a record-equalling fifth ranking event crown of what has arguably been one of the best and most consistent seasons of his entire career.
O’Sullivan will face Neil Robertson or Judd Trump next, with the latter emerging from a close battle with Stephen Maguire to reach the last eight earlier on day three in Llandudno.
Defending champion Trump, as he so often does, got off to a lightning start and took three out of the first four frames courtesy of a brace of centuries and an additional run of 78.
Maguire, though, valiantly hung on with a couple of hundred breaks too and, indeed, appeared to take the game by the scruff of the neck when he won three frames on the bounce to lead 4-3 near the game’s conclusion.
The Scot desperately needed to progress to realistically keep alive his ambitions of breaking into the top 16 before the automatic seedings for the upcoming World Championship are determined but it was Trump who just about finished the stronger, taking the final three frames to advance after a scare.
It was a much easier afternoon for Anthony McGill, though, who did his Crucible aspirations no damage whatsoever thanks to a 6-0 drubbing of countryman John Higgins to round off the last 16.
Four of the six frames could have gone either way in what was mostly an unattractive tie between the pair of Scots, but McGill won’t mind as he finally gets one over on the former world number one after four prior defeats this season – including the final of the Indian Open last summer.
McGill will meet Shaun Murphy in the last quarter-final clash scheduled on Friday afternoon but before that on Thursday there’s Trump’s intriguing contest with Robertson.
Also on the fourth day of action at the Venue Cymru is the all-Welsh duel between Mark Williams and the in-form Ryan Day, who has won a dozen matches in a row this month and is looking to move higher up the rankings in an effort to guarantee his place in this year’s World Championship in Sheffield.