Northern Ireland Open quarter-final
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Northern Ireland Open Quarter-Final Preview

Mark Selby remains on course for a Home Nations double after reaching the Northern Ireland Open quarter-final on Thursday in Belfast.

The former world number one triumphed in last month’s English Open and two wins on Thursday saw him reach the last eight at the Waterfront Hall.

Selby is the only player who has a shot at claiming the £1 million bonus for capturing all four Home Nations crowns.

As unlikely as it may be, the three-time world champion is arguably the best competitor around to be in contention if a serious challenge to unlock the jackpot is at all credible.

Selby faces John Higgins next after the Scot overcame World Cup winning partner Stephen Maguire to complete the line-up for Friday.

Higgins withstood a late rally from his close friend to prevail in a match that went the distance, after earlier beating Billy Joe Castle in the last 32.

Selby and Higgins have had numerous high-profile showdowns in their careers, including a pair of World Championship finals.

The Leicester man enjoys the better head-to-head record but Higgins did manage to win their last clash in last season’s Players Championship.

Three other proven winners from this season are also still in the hunt at the Northern Ireland Open quarter-final stage.

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Shaun Murphy will encounter each other in a repeat of their dramatic Shanghai Masters final from September.

On that occasion, the “Rocket” edged a close battle 11-9 and overall O’Sullivan has a far superior head-to-head record against the China Championship winner.

In fact, Murphy has only emerged victorious from their battles on four occasions – the last of which occurring more than two years ago in the final of the 2017 Champion of Champions.

O’Sullivan, of course, is bidding to break Stephen Hendry’s longstanding record of 36 career ranking titles.

Defending champion Judd Trump, meanwhile, will face Anthony Hamilton for a semi-final berth this weekend.

The pair couldn’t have had more contrasting routes to this stage, with Trump recording a brace of whitewashes on Thursday and Hamilton requiring all 14 of his allotted frames to advance.

World champion Trump is worth every bit of his best player in the world tag at present.

The Bristol potter has two titles to his name already this season and narrowly lost a thrilling final in the Champion of Champions on Sunday.

Trump has beaten Hamilton in three out of the four previous meetings between the pair and will be a huge favourite heading into this tie.

The remaining fixture has Joe Perry up against Swiss star Alexander Ursenbacher.

Ursenbacher disappointed the home crowd by edging Northern Ireland’s own Mark Allen in a last 16 decider.

When the 23 year-old reached the semi-finals of the 2017 English Open, he looked set to emerge as a major player on the snooker scene.

However, Ursenbacher has failed to impress in the interim and this run represents the first time since then that he’s featured in a tournament late on.

Perry has never played the former European under-21 champion before so there’s nothing to go on from any previous duels.

However, the “Gentleman” will be looking to go as far as he can in an effort to safeguard his chances of gaining an invitation to the prestigious Masters in January.

Live coverage of the Northern Ireland Open quarter-final stage is on Eurosport and Quest TV.

Click here to view the draw (Times: CET)

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