The penultimate World Championship qualifying round reached its conclusion on Monday with just 32 players now remaining in the hunt for the coveted 16 additional berths on offer for the main event at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
Judgement Day, as it has become known over the last few seasons, will take place across Tuesday, in which the first sessions of each encounter will be played, and Wednesday when all the annual drama and twitchiness is set to unfold.
Notable competitors who exited in the second stage of qualifying included Martin Gould, Zhou Yuelong, and Elliot Slessor – who many tipped to be one of this year’s Crucible debutants.
There were safe passages, though, for the likes of Ryan Day – a three-time tournament winner from this season whose opponent Mitchell Mann withdrew through illness midway through their clash – Stephen Maguire, and Liang Wenbo.
Scotland’s Alan McManus left it late – past midnight to be more precise – but eventually saw off the challenge of Oliver Lines to boost his hopes of staying inside the world’s top 64.
Former world champion Peter Ebdon earned a comprehensive 10-5 win over Robbie Williams while some of the other bigger names to progress were Michael White, Xiao Guodong, Michael Holt, and Jack Lisowski.
Ebdon, who lifted the trophy 16 years ago, will face Day in what is arguably the tie of Judgement Day but the draw is littered with intriguing match-ups that could go either way.
Maguire faces Hossein Vafaei, the Iranian hoping to go one step further than his agonising defeat at the final hurdle twelve months ago, while other Scotsmen McManus and Graeme Dott meet Lisowski and Mike Dunn respectively.
It’s already guaranteed that there will be at least two Crucible newbies in 2018, with two from the quartet of Liam Highfield, Daniel Wells, Tian Pengfei, and Chris Wakelin set to make their maiden World Championship bow.
Elsewhere, Adam Duffy could become to first home player from Sheffield to compete in the last 32 but is tasked with one of the most difficult challenges in the last round in a match with former ranking event runner-up Xiao.
The latter’s countrymen Liang and Lyu Haotian do battle with Jamie Jones and Rory McLeod while 26 year-old Zhang Anda will look to secure a fourth Crucible berth when he faces Stuart Carrington.
Quickfire Thai star Thepchaiya Un-Nooh dispatched of Adam Stefanow, the last remaining amateur in the draw, to set up a clash with Alfie Burden, who requires another win to help safeguard his tour survival.
“Hitman” Holt faces fellow tour stalwart Robert Milkins while there’s another all-veteran clash between Joe Perry and Mark Davis, who have lost just seven frames between them so far across the two early rounds.
Paul Hunter Classic champion White is up against Jimmy Robertson and, last but certainly not least, Ireland’s Ken Doherty faces old foe Matthew Stevens in a repeat of their memorable 2000 Masters final.
For one, triumph will provide a return to the scene of so many of their greatest moments and most painful defeats, while for the other it will be despair with another year of wondering what might have been.
Judgement Day is undoubtedly one of the most thrilling rounds of snooker on the entire calendar and the action is well worth a follow over the next couple of days at the English Institute of Sport.