Mark Selby remains on course for a hat-trick in Daqing after reaching the International Championship quarter-finals – which will take place on Thursday in China.
The world number one, who has won the event in each of the last two seasons, safely booked his place in the last eight thanks to a 6-3 victory over Stuart Carrington.
Selby will face Riga Masters champion Neil Robertson, who was the runner-up when the event was originally launched on the calendar six years ago, after the Australian fought back from behind to deny Chinese teenager Yuan Sijun 6-4.
Robertson looked to be in trouble when he trailed 3-1 and 4-3 but he dug deep, winning a crucial eighth frame on the black before finishing the tie strongly with back-to-back century breaks.
Selby and Robertson have plenty of history with their head-to-head record evenly matched at seven wins apiece from their prior contests with one another.
The former’s wonderful record in China, a country which has provided him with six out of his last ten ranking title triumphs, would probably give him the slight edge and there’s also a sense that the Leicester man is going to be trying extra badly to succeed in tribute to the helicopter tragedy in his home city last weekend that resulted in the loss of five lives, including Leicester City’s club chairman.
The top half of the International Championship quarter-finals draw is particularly loaded with star names as pals Judd Trump and Jack Lisowski face off in the same bracket too.
Trump hasn’t been tested yet this week, losing only two frames in three matches so far, but will likely be given a sterner examination by Lisowski, who like Robertson knocked in consecutive tons in the last two frames to prevail in his last 16 tie against Martin Gould, 6-5.
Lisowski, the Riga Masters runner-up, has been one of the most consistent competitors on the circuit this campaign and is hoping to break into the top 16 in the world rankings in time to gain an invitation into the prestigious Masters in January.
With only a couple of counting ranking events to go after this week, Lisowski can leapfrog Marco Fu in 16th position on the provisional Race to the Masters standings if he were to oust Trump and reach the semi-finals in China.
Meanwhile, there’s still the opportunity for a repeat occurrence of the final twelve months ago, when Selby denied Mark Allen to secure his double in the tournament, after the Northern Irishman scored heavily to thrash Alfie Burden 6-1.
Allen compiled a brace of tons to set up a meeting with Ali Carter, who had a high break of 132 in a hard-fought 6-4 defeat of Thailand’s Sunny Akani.
Somewhat amazingly, for two players that have consistently featured among the game’s top batch of cueists over the last decade, Allen and Carter have only crossed paths with one another six times – with the pair sharing the victories evenly between them.
They have only once battled over the best of eleven frames, when Allen came out on top in the 2011 UK Championship en route to making the final that year.
Ding Junhui had been the favourite from this section of the draw but his failure to beat Matthew Stevens has gifted the likes of Allen and Carter with an even bigger chance to make their mark on an event that boasts a top prize of £175,000.
Stevens, who has fallen to 56th in the world rankings, rolled back the years with a terrific 6-5 victory over the Chinese number one, with this International Championship quarter-finals appearance his first at this stage of a ranking event in four years.
The former UK and Masters champion will face Martin O’Donnell for a semi-final berth after the latter made it back-to-back runs to the last eight of rankers in China.
O’Donnell has been in superb form this week and backed up his whitewash win over Tom Ford with another comprehensive hammering, this time courtesy of a 6-1 scoreline against World Open runner-up David Gilbert.
The Englishman has never beaten Stevens in three previous attempts, albeit they all came in the early stages of ranking tournaments when there wasn’t as much on the line.
Live coverage of the International Championship quarter-finals will be on Eurosport.
Click here to view the draw (Times: CET)