Mark Allen continued his recent strong form to reach the Scottish Open semi-final in Glasgow on Friday.
The Northern Irishman, who lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan in last week’s UK Championship final, hammered birthday boy Alfie Burden 5-0 in the last eight.
Allen began 2018 with a famous triumph in the prestigious Masters and could end it by collecting the last piece of silverware available this year as the third Home Nations series event of the campaign reaches the business stages.
The 32 year-old, who also captured the International Championship crown last month in Daqing, will face Daniel Wells in Saturday’s first Scottish Open semi-final encounter.
The latter has taken full advantage of O’Sullivan’s decision to opt out of featuring in Scotland at the last minute following his success in York on Sunday.
Wells was supposed to be the five-time world champion’s opponent in the first round but the Welshman instead received a walkover and has subsequently enjoyed his best career run in a ranking event to date.
The 30 year-old thumped countryman Ryan Day in the quarter-finals and is now guaranteed a cheque for £20,000 that will go a long way to securing the world number 66’s tour survival.
It’s fair to say @danielwells147 is making the most of his first round bye… #ScottishOpen pic.twitter.com/D1RTAaOI2G
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) December 14, 2018
One suspects that Wells will have to raise his game even more, though, if he’s to upset the odds again and reach a maiden final.
Allen has won two out of their three prior contests, the latest occurring in this season’s Riga Masters in Latvia.
This calendar year has arguably been Allen’s most consistent ever and he is beginning to demonstrate signs that he could be able to finally make a breakthrough into the elite of the elite at the very top of the rankings.
Meanwhile, the second Scottish Open semi-final will see two proven winners face off in what promises to be an entertaining battle of two Englishmen.
Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy have experienced contrasting campaigns up until this point but will clash with a berth in the final at stake.
Murphy hadn’t even reached a ranking event quarter-final this term before this week but made light work of Sam Baird, who had accounted for the “Magician” in a couple of first round matches in recent months, to prolong his streak to the last four.
Trump was pushed harder against old foe Stuart Carrington, a player he knows well from the pair’s junior days.
The Northern Ireland Open champion was the heavier scorer – boasting breaks of 119, 117, 101, 64, and 55 – but only managed to escape with a 5-3 triumph.
Trump and Murphy are no strangers to facing each other and have 15 previous battles to recall upon.
The former possesses the advantage with nine overall victories, including the last two times the duo has crossed paths.
Despite being the favourite, it’s difficult to have full confidence in Trump because his consistency, especially towards the latter stages of tournaments, tends to be a tad random.
Still, it’s within the 29 year-old’s grasp to become the first player to win consecutive Home Nations events since the series was launched in 2016.
While the title will obviously be of primary importance to Murphy, the 2005 world champion will also have one eye on the provisional one-year rankings.
Only the top 32 on that list after the German Masters will qualify for the lucrative Coral Cup series and Murphy currently stands seven spots adrift of a guaranteed World Grand Prix place.