UK Championship last 32
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Eight Former Winners in UK Championship Last 32

The field of 128 that started out last Tuesday has been whittled down as we enter the UK Championship last 32 stage a week on in York.

A quarter of the line-up remaining understands what it takes to land the coveted title – the sport’s second most prestigious ranking event after only the World Championship itself.

There are four ex-champions on each side of the draw, spearheaded by defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and world number one Judd Trump.

The pair has lost just a single frame between them across the opening two rounds and could be destined for a grandstand finale against one another on Sunday.

There are four more rounds to go before that eventuality materialises and there are plenty of other contenders finding form at the Barbican Centre.

O’Sullivan, who has won the event two times in a row and a record seven times in all, faces Noppon Saengkham in the third round while Trump, bidding to add to his UK victory from eight years ago, meets veteran Nigel Bond.

In the same mini-bracket as the “Rocket” is two-time winner Ding Junhui, who faces Ali Carter in an intriguing clash.

The duo is well placed to each receive an invitation to the prestigious Masters in January but defeat for either will open the door to the chasing pack.

Currently in 15th and 16th place respectively on the provisional Race to the Masters standings, Ding and Carter will know that a slip up at this point could be pivotal.

Another former champion, 2004 winner Stephen Maguire, is set to pounce and a triumph for the Scot over countryman Graeme Dott, coinciding with a defeat for Carter, would see Maguire draw level with the exact same prize money as the “Captain”.

The Race to the Masters has tended to provide an exciting subplot to the UK Championship in recent years but, of course, these players will also have one eye on the main prize itself in North Yorkshire.

Gary Wilson, Yan Bingtao, and Dott himself could rise into the top 16 with a run to the final this week.

Crucible semi-finalist Wilson, who compiled an incredible four century breaks in coming from 4-0 down to beat Chris Wakelin 6-4, faces Joe Perry while Jack Lisowski represents Yan’s next hurdle to overcome in what is an exciting looking affair on paper.

Then what of the other former winners in the UK Championship last 32 – Mark Selby, John Higgins, Neil Robertson, and Matthew Stevens?

Well, the latter is unlikely to challenge for the top prize of £200,000 but did boast a gritty 6-5 success over fellow Welshman Ryan Day in the last round.

Stevens, whose victory in 2003 is his only glory in a ranking tournament to date, takes on Anthony Hamilton.

Selby, Higgins, and Robertson have eight UK Championship titles between them and will fancy their chances of another tilt at the silverware again.

The Champion of Champions Robertson duels with Mark King, Selby meets Martin O’Donnell, and Higgins is challenged by Ian Burns.

Mark Williams’ premature exit in the second round on Monday has left the door ajar for one of either his conqueror Michael White, Mark Davis, Maguire, or Dott to forge their way through into a potential quarter-final spot.

Shaun Murphy and Kyren Wilson’s demises have also apparently opened things up near the top of the draw.

One of either 2008 runner-up Marco Fu, Li Hang, Eden Sharav, or Liang Wenbo will be featuring in the last eight.

For Liang, any progress made this week will be bittersweet after the 2015 finalist’s mother passed away last week in China.

Liang returned to his homeland for the funeral but opted to make the long journey back to complete a heroic 6-3 victory over David Grace yesterday.

Meanwhile, two-time runner-up Mark Allen looks odds-on for another good run following his final appearance twelve months ago.

The Northern Irishman will be expected to overcome Ben Woollaston with another winnable tie against either Alan McManus or Kurt Maflin to come in the last 16.

Finally, Stuart Bingham is still in the hunt but is tasked with one of the most difficult lower ranked competitors in Zhao Xintong.

Live coverage of the UK Championship last 32 is on the BBC and Eurosport.

Click here to view the draw (Times: CET)

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