Neil Robertson reached the International Championship semi-finals on Thursday thanks to a superb 6-4 victory over Mark Selby – ending the world number one’s 18-match unbeaten record in Daqing.
In an entertaining affair, Selby appeared set to continue his dominance in an event that he had won in each of the past two campaigns, especially when he established a 4-2 lead over the Australian following a brace of big centuries and a further run of 83.
But Robertson prevented himself from going three frames down by claiming a scrappy seventh and duly turned on his trademark afterburners to storm into the last four with breaks of 113, 95, and 53.
It means that the 36 year-old is still in with a shout of a second ranking title of the season after his initial Riga Masters success at the outset of this term.
In fact, Robertson will meet the player that he overcame in that final in Latvia during the summer with Jack Lisowski standing between the Melbourne man and another title decider.
Lisowski, who has arguably been the most consistent competitor of the campaign so far, reached the International Championship semi-finals courtesy of a 6-2 triumph over close friend Judd Trump.
The pair traded bad misses and sizable contributions alike but Lisowski was generally in control after winning four out of the opening five frames.
The 27 year-old’s run to the last four adds to his final in Riga and three other quarter-final appearances since the start of the season, suggesting that a maiden ranking event title is just around the corner.
Lisowski is by no means the finished article – his lack of a competent B-game can get him into trouble and he has thrown away a number of seemingly comfortable advantages in key encounters this year – but there’s not much doubting the fact that he is the most exciting young player from Britain to emerge since Trump’s breakthrough almost a decade ago.
Aside from the 5-2 loss to Robertson in their Riga Masters showdown, Lisowski was also defeated in their only other meeting six years ago in Ireland.
With the format now increasing to the best of 17 frames, played across two sessions, one would have to give the 2010 world champion the advantage given the experience he boasts in longer matches.
But Lisowski has the ability to reel off a succession of frames in lightning fashion and he has the added motivation of attempting to safeguard his position in the provisional Race to the Masters standings – where he now lies in the crucial 16th and last qualifying spot ahead of Marco Fu.
The bottom half of the International Championship semi-finals draw sees free-scoring Mark Allen up against a familiar face from times gone in Matthew Stevens – with this fixture the first to take place on Friday before the second contest is played out on Saturday.
Stevens fought back strongly for the second successive round, taking four out of the last five frames to deny Martin O’Donnell a maiden last four appearance in a ranking event with a 6-5 scoreline.
It marks the first time since the 2013 World Open that Stevens, who has dropped down the pecking order to below the top 50 in the world rankings, has reached the business end of a competition.
Indeed, when the Welshman reached the final of that event more than five years ago, it was Allen who prevailed against him to lift the crown in Haikou.
The Northern Irishman has been in terrific form this week, firing in a number of centuries, including a 129 in his 6-0 thrashing of Ali Carter in the quarter-finals.
Allen was the runner-up to Selby this time last year and the Masters champion must be fancying his chances even more now that the Leicester man has been accounted for.
Stevens and Allen have clashed only six times but a number of those have been high-profile occasions, including twice at the World Championship where they have each beaten the other once before.
Live coverage of the International Championship semi-finals will be on Eurosport.
Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)
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