After ten days of entertainment and sporting drama, the World Snooker Championship quarter-finals leave just eight contenders remaining for the top prize in Sheffield.
The script has certainly not been followed to the letter with several unexpected forces still in the hunt at the Crucible Theatre.
That said, two of the pre-tournament favourites do remain and, with the pair on either side of the draw, a grandstand finale could yet await.
Neil Robertson and Judd Trump were the cueists, alongside fallen world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan, who represented the best shouts for success in 2019.
Their routes to the World Snooker Championship quarter-finals couldn’t have been much different, though.
By Trump’s own admission, the 29 year-old has been poor up until this point and is perhaps fortunate to have not been punished by Asian opponents Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Ding Junhui in the first couple of rounds.
With O’Sullivan quickly dumped out of proceedings in the opening few days following a shock reverse against amateur James Cahill, a significant portion of the weight of attention in the bottom bracket shifted onto Trump’s shoulders.
It’s safe to say that the current Masters champion hasn’t dealt with it smoothly but through to the last eight he is, and it’s from now when things start to truly heat up.
Trump’s victory over Ding in the last 16, in which he won the last six frames during the final session, was arguably a battle between two of the best players to have never lifted the blue riband trophy.
💬 “The World Championship does things that no other tournament does”@judd147t overcame Crucible pressure – and a former finalist in Ding Junhui – to reach the last 8 of the @Betfred World Championship!
The Ace in the Pack meets Maguire next #ilovesnooker @Betfred pic.twitter.com/yFOcZrUD8Z
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) April 29, 2019
A similar billing could be attributed to the Englishman’s upcoming affair against Stephen Maguire, another cueist who has failed to replicate his talent on the biggest stage.
Maguire, now 38, boasts only a brace of semi-final appearances but ought to be feeling somewhat invincible in 2019 having emerged successfully from a couple of dramatic deciders to reach this point.
The Scot possesses the game to challenge for the pinnacle honour but whether his temperament is up to scratch remains the most obvious question that has been left unanswered.
The five-time ranking event winner and Trump have crossed paths on numerous occasions since their first battle almost a decade ago.
This clash will complete the set of Triple Crown ties, having previously already played each other two times each in both the UK Championship and the Masters.
The overall head-to-head record is a close 10-8 in favour of Trump and one would expect him to seize the initiative again here, although Maguire did pass his last test when the pair faced off in this year’s German Masters.
Another member of the top 10 players who have never won the World Championship could await the winner in the last four.
Like Trump, Ali Carter bounced back from a 9-7 deficit to overcome Zhou Yuelong 13-9 in the second round on Monday.
The “Captain” enjoys a great deal of pedigree in Sheffield having twice finished runner-up since 2008.
Carter, with that level of experience in his back pocket, will be quite a heavy favourite to progress from his challenge of the surprise package Gary Wilson.
Qualifier Wilson has been one of the stars of the tournament so far after brilliant victories over Luca Brecel and especially Mark Selby.
Few would have predicted the 33 year-old from Newcastle get this far but, against the world number two in particular, Wilson has produced a terrific display.
Whether he can maintain his composure with the dangling carrot of a Crucible appearance at the single table set-up remains to be seen.
In Wilson’s favour is the fact that, in his only previous duel with Carter, he came out on top with a 6-4 scoreline in last year’s China Open.
Carter, though, is just a completely different proposition when it comes to this venue and his tiger-like approach will likely be difficult to handle for the relative newcomer.
Australia’s Robertson, meanwhile, is on course for a fifth run to a ranking event final in succession after routine triumphs over Michael Georgiou and Shaun Murphy helped him seal a World Snooker Championship quarter-finals berth.
The 37 year-old has by far and away looked the best player in the tournament and he barely broke a sweat in the first week of action in Sheffield.
Robertson will face John Higgins who, despite a dreadful campaign that led to him questioning his future in the game, has struggled his way in trademark fashion beyond his first two obstacles.
Whether Higgins is playing at a high enough level to worry Robertson is somewhat doubtful but you can’t write off a four-time champion who has embarked on runs to each of the last two world finals.
Even so, nine years after his maiden victory Robertson looks the man to beat and he evidently hasn’t lost the drive which helped him to etch his name onto the silverware in the recent Welsh and China Opens.
The Melbourne man boasts a marginally superior head-to-head record with eight wins to the Scot’s seven.
Indeed, Robertson has triumphed in their last three contests, albeit that does cover a wide six-year time frame.
Last but certainly not least is the World Snooker Championship quarter-finals fixture containing Englishmen Kyren Wilson and David Gilbert.
The latter ousted the reigning champion in the last 16, a victory with added meaning after Gilbert’s painful meltdown at the hands of Mark Williams in the World Open final last summer.
Strangely enough, Wilson also pipped Gilbert to ranking event glory this season when the pair clashed in the German Masters title decider in February.
Can Gilbert make it a revenge double? The 37 year-old has quietly gone about his business so far while playing to a pretty high level.
Wilson’s armoury will have been strengthened after fighting back from 6-1 down to deny Barry Hawkins a seventh consecutive ticket to the last eight.
Other than their Tempordrom tie, Wilson and Gilbert met way back in 2014 when the former again got the better of proceedings in Shanghai.
The Kettering cueist is the dark horse for the 2019 championship and it’s clear that he boasts the kind of all-round skills necessary to do well in the “Marathon of the Mind”.
💬 @KyrenWilson: “I had to draw on that experience”
Wilson is into his fourth Crucible quarter final. David Gilbert; his first.
Will experience be the difference? They’ve both had career-best seasons #ilovesnooker @Betfred pic.twitter.com/hhdyZSCSyO
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) April 29, 2019
One thing worth noting, though.
For Gilbert, Robertson, (Gary) Wilson, and Maguire, the quarter could reap the advantages of a kinder schedule, which has seen them handed with two – or three in Robertson’s case – days off ahead of this important round.
Trump, Higgins, Carter, and (Kyren) Wilson all advanced from mentally gruelling matches on Monday, so it could potentially have an impact over the next couple of days as stamina, as well as form, is tested to the limit.