Judd Trump booked his place in the Shanghai Masters quarter-finals with a hard-fought 6-4 victory over David Gilbert on Wednesday.
The world champion and world number one wasn’t at his best and was aided by a monstrous fluke in what proved to be the last frame when his opponent could have been left in among the balls to force a decider, but survived to set up a mouthwatering clash against Mark Allen.
The latter didn’t produce his A-game either but battled back from 5-4 down to deny Liang Wenbo in a final frame shootout.
Between them, Trump and Allen have been runners-up in this event four times in the last seven years without ever managing to get their hands on the trophy.
Back then it was an established ranking event but, of course, these days the competition has been transformed into a lucrative invitational with a mammoth £200,000 on offer for the champion.
Trump and Allen haven’t faced each other since the same stage of the International Championship two years ago and a lot has changed since then, with the pair having secured three out of the six Triple Crown events between them in the interim.
But for what it’s worth, the Northern Irishman boasts a marginally superior head-to-head record from their 15 prior battles and there’s no reason to suggest why this fixture won’t be close as well.
💬 “There will only be a handful of times in your career that you win over ten matches in a row”@judd147t has now won 13 matches on the bounce and he is determined to keep that run going this week.#ShanghaiMasters pic.twitter.com/TZwnKXYaIr
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) September 11, 2019
A great deal of people will be hoping for a Trump victory, though, if only for the simple reason that it keeps alive the prospect of a dream final scenario between the 30 year-old and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan raced through his first match of the season but will be tested more in his Shanghai Masters quarter-finals tie against Kyren Wilson.
The duo last faced off in a memorable Champion of Champions final, when O’Sullivan compiled a cool century break to capture the title in a deciding frame.
Even though he hasn’t played competitively in months, O’Sullivan remains the bookmaker’s 7/4 favourite for glory this week.
For more tips, learn about bet-at-home and what snooker odds they have to offer for this year’s tournament in China.
The top half of the draw also features Neil Robertson, who upset Ding Junhui’s legion of supporters after a 6-3 triumph over the Chinese number one.
Robertson suffered from a few late-match wobbles but overall looked impressive and the Australian will tackle Barry Hawkins next.
Last year’s runner-up nearly squandered a 5-3 advantage over John Higgins, eventually recovering a 60 points deficit in the decider to clinch a tense victory on the final black.
Hawkins possesses an inferior head-to-head record against Robertson but the Paul Hunter Classic champion will be buoyed by the fact that he somewhat escaped from a nervy finish in the last 16 unscathed.
Finally, Shaun Murphy and Jack Lisowski will clash in an all-English battle after each emerging from the preliminary round and beyond two top eight seeds so far.
The signs aren’t great for Lisowski, with the “Dude” enduring a bagel record from his four previous encounters with Murphy.
The fact that those matches occurred before Lisowski’s rapid upsurge in form tempers that slightly, albeit Murphy has been in resurgent form this term after reaching the final of last month’s International Championship in Daqing.
Four fascinating Shanghai Masters quarter-finals in store for Thursday then as the event edges towards a thrilling climax this weekend.