Three top 16 players feature in the last four of the Six Red World Championship with outsider Akani Songsermsawad hoping to upset the odds and lift the title on home soil in Thailand.
The popular 22 year-old, known as Sunny Akani, prevailed in both of his opening knockout phase fixtures on Thursday in deciding frame thrillers – first against former champion Stephen Maguire before a similar 6-5 success over Mohammed Shehab.
Shehab, the only amateur to make it beyond the group stages, had stunned the defending champion Mark Williams in the previous round and almost made it to the semi-finals but it was Akani who advanced much to the delight of the crowd.
The world number 65’s presence in the final stages will guarantee a packed house as he attempts to become only the second player from Thailand to win the event in its ten-year existence.
Akani will meet the in-form Kyren Wilson for a berth in Saturday’s final after the recent Paul Hunter Classic champion ousted Anthony McGill and Stuart Bingham.
The pair has never met over the shorter format of the game but have twice crossed paths in ranking events, with Wilson bagging a brace of victories including in the 2016 Indian Open quarter-finals.
Songsermsawad will have the extra support in the arena to count on, though, and he’s already proven that he can handle the pressure if it gets to the tense exchanges towards the business end of a contest.
The other semi-final clash involves 2016 champion Ding Junhui and Belgium’s Luca Brecel.
Ding, who progressed from his round-robin group with a 100% record, secured relatively comfortable wins against Graeme Dott and Thai legend James Wattana to prolong his quest for a second Six Red World Championship title.
Brecel, meanwhile, recorded a couple of 6-3 scorelines against Ryan Day and Tom Ford respectively, the latter having knocked out world number one Mark Selby in the last 16.
Ding and Brecel have also never played each other under this guise before but the Chinese number one boasts a superior head-to-head record from their more traditional 15-red battles, including a 6-4 victory in the semi-finals of last year’s World Open when Ding went on to claim his last piece of professional silverware.
With more than £80,000 on offer for the champion this week, there’s no doubt that the players will be trying their best to produce the goods when it matters most and hopefully walk away with the coveted world crown.