Mark Williams booked a World Open semi-final spot on Friday after a dramatic turnaround in fortunes against Jack Lisowski in the quarter-finals in Yushan.
The world champion looked to be heading home in the blink of an eye as his young, in-form opponent reeled off a hat-trick of lightning fast frames to establish a 3-0 lead after barely half an hour of play.
But a 96 break got Williams on the scoreboard at the mid-session interval and it was from there that the 43 year-old began to ride his luck en route to an eventual 5-3 victory.
The Welshman fluked a key ball in the next frame to reduce the gap to one and levelled after Lisowski inexplicably missed the final pink, played with his weaker hand, which was the frame ball that would have taken him to the brink of the weekend’s action.
From there, there was only one winner as Lisowski, who reached the final of the Riga Masters last month, fell apart and Williams grew in strength to prolong his challenge for a 22nd career ranking title.
For Lisowski, it was another entertaining set of displays that got him to the business end of a tournament but the manner in which the 27 year-old is losing the big matches – like in the Latvia final against Neil Robertson and during his humbling 13-1 defeat to John Higgins at the Crucible – will be cause for concern for his growing number of supporters.
Williams, though, did what he has done best, both throughout his almost three-decade tenure on the main tour and especially in the last twelve months – win.
There were many who thought that he would get this new campaign off to a slow start after openly celebrating the success, in excess, of his third world title in Sheffield, but everything has picked up where it left off in May and he is now the clear favourite to pocket the £150,000 champion’s cheque.
In the World Open semi-final, Williams will face Noppon Saengkham after the Thai followed up his thrilling triumph over world number one Mark Selby with a more resounding, albeit lengthy, 5-1 defeat of Xiao Guodong – ending home participation in China.
Saengkham matches his best performance in a ranking tournament and will hope to go one better than his appearance in the semi-finals of this year’s Welsh Open, but has his work cut out as the set-up transforms into the single table and the pressure begins to mount.
Somewhat surprisingly, Williams and Saengkham have never met each other in a competitive clash so there’s nothing from the past to go on but it would be a brave man to bet on the latter upsetting the odds again.
In the top half of the draw, Barry Hawkins and David Gilbert booked their places in the World Open semi-final after respective wins against Gary Wilson and Marco Fu.
Hawkins, who has quietly gone about his business without much attention despite being one of the top seeds this week, remains on course for a fourth ranking trophy after overcoming fellow Englishman Wilson in a high-quality affair that boasted plenty of sizable contributions.
Gilbert, meanwhile, fired in a 122 en route to recording the same scoreline against Fu, in doing so reaching this late phase of a ranking event for only the second time in his career.
For someone as obviously talented as the 37 year-old, this stat unquestionably underlines Gilbert’s underachievement in the game but there’s still time for him to make his mark akin to the likes of how Ryan Day, Anthony Hamilton, and Mark King managed maiden ranking glories in recent seasons.
Gilbert and Hawkins have encountered each other only twice before, with the pair sharing the spoils in an even head-to-head record.
Most would expect to see a final on Sunday consisting of Williams and Hawkins but the script hasn’t really been adhered to in what is just the second tournament of the campaign, following a prolonged summer break.