The English Open final will be contested between two home players but one of them won’t be Ronnie O’Sullivan after the defending champion crashed out to Mark Davis on Saturday in Crawley.
O’Sullivan had been the overwhelming favourite to continue his unbeaten streak this season, following his previous triumph in the Shanghai Masters invitational last month in China, but was out of sorts after a week in which he generated a succession of headlines.
Davis, competing in a ranking event semi-final for the sixth time in his long career, took full advantage with a superb display that inflicted a deserved 6-1 defeat on the Rocket, who made a maximum break on Wednesday after earlier calling the K2 venue a hellhole.
Stuart Bingham will be Davis’ opponent in Sunday’s showdown for the first Home Nations series tournament of the campaign after the 2015 world champion pulled clear of Stephen Maguire in the first last four encounter for a 6-3 triumph.
It’s hardly the final affair that many would have predicted or perhaps hoped for, but it’s a clash between two players who have been stalwarts of the Main Tour for more than five decades between them.
While Bingham will be bidding for his fifth ranking title and a potential second Home Nations success – he would become the first player to achieve the feat since the series launched in 2016 – Davis is set to contest a ranking final for the first time at the tender age of 46.
A professional since 1991, Davis recently admitted that he was going to try everything in an attempt to land a ranking trophy before his career ended and he has now given himself a wonderful opportunity to do just that.
In recent years, the likes of Anthony Hamilton, Ryan Day, and Mark King have broken their ranking tournament duck and Davis would be one of the next in line to take on the unwanted mantle of being the best player never to win one.
If he were to score like he did against O’Sullivan, when he compiled runs of 102, 93, 84, 65, and 52, the player known as Dark Mavis on social media will certainly give himself a great chance in the English Open final.
However, despite the obvious confidence boost that any hammering of the former world number one would bring, an experience of playing a match with the silverware and champion’s cheque on the line is another prospect to deal with entirely.
Davis has enjoyed success in the Six Red World Championship, a competition he has famously won three times, but he would dearly love to be among the exclusive club of ranking event winners too.
Of course, Bingham will be the favourite to go on and lift the trophy aloft as he has a wealth of experience at the business end of proceedings in these big events.
Almost exactly a year ago, Bingham was handed a six month ban – three suspended – after an investigation was launched into his betting on the sport.
The scandal damaged not only the 42 year-old’s reputation but also his membership among the elite in the game as his period away caused him to slide down the rankings.
Just about still in the top 16, Bingham’s run this week looks set to help guarantee his ticket to the prestigious Masters at the turn of the new year in his hometown London.
Of more immediate concern obviously is this final and Bingham will be hoping to add to the 2017 Welsh Open that he bagged in the inaugural Home Nations season so he can add the Steve Davis Trophy to the Ray Reardon Trophy already in his collection.
Bingham and Davis have an even head-to-head record, with the former boasting just two more victories from their 14 previous battles since 2001.
Davis will need to score like he did in the semi-final and hope that he can get his nose in front early because Bingham could very easily end up using his experience to power home if he could stamp his authority from the outset.
This year’s English Open final is not necessarily one that will get the pulses racing but the Home Nations title deciders have often proved to be dramatic in the past, with four out of the eight previous finals going the distance.
Let’s hope for something similar as Bingham and Davis play for the £70,000 top prize.