Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen will do battle in a mouthwatering Players Championship semi-finals fixture in Preston on Saturday evening.
Along with Judd Trump and Neil Robertson, who contested the opening last four clash on Friday that went the way of the latter, O’Sullivan and Allen represent two of the players of the season so far.
The pair, who have accumulated five titles between them since September, met in the final of the UK Championship in December when the “Rocket” prevailed to capture a record-breaking 19th Triple Crown trophy.
They both required close 6-4 scorelines over the last couple of days in order to reach the Players Championship semi-finals.
O’Sullivan edged John Higgins in what was a record-equalling 68th duel between the former world champions in all competitions.
Allen had previously overcome Stuart Bingham by the same narrow margin, fighting back from 3-0 down to impressively win six out of the last seven frames against the English Open winner.
Overall, reigning champion O’Sullivan has triumphed in five out of the eight previous clashes with the “Pistol”.
But the Northern Irishman, who is the top seed at the Guild Hall having tallied the most ranking points this term, is no stranger to ousting O’Sullivan on the big stage with all three of his victories occurring in either the World Championship or the Masters.
People who believe in the snooker gods or an ironic state of destiny, though, will probably believe that it’s fate O’Sullivan progresses to face Melbourne man Robertson in the final on Sunday.
The 43 year-old has generated a number of headlines for his, let’s be honest, utterly crap impersonations of Aussies this week.
It’s curious how O’Sullivan hasn’t received more negative press surrounding the slang.
Were he to consistently lay on thick a stereotypical Irish accent in the form of a leprechaun, there would almost certainly be a bigger backlash – and what about if it was Indian or Chinese?
Aussie O’Sullivan is alive and kicking! 🇦🇺
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) March 8, 2019
Still, O’Sullivan’s antics, which include his familiar tirades against referees that have become the norm in tournaments, aren’t effecting his actual performances on the table that much – indeed, the distraction usually helps him.
In the Players Championship semi-finals he’ll likely need to be at his best to deny Allen a berth against the genuine article from Down Under.
Either way, it promises to be an enthralling finale to this year’s event.
Live coverage is on ITV4 and Eurosport (Outside UK and Ire)