Former winners Ding Junhui and Stephen Maguire will contest the 2019 UK Championship final at the Barbican Centre in York on Sunday.
In the final Triple Crown event of this decade, the clash represents a throwback to the last one.
Maguire’s sole success at this level seems like a very long time ago – probably because it was – with the Scot demolishing the field at the 2004 UK Championship.
A year later, Ding was similarly just announcing himself on the mainstream snooker scene and overcame a resurgent Steve Davis in a battle of the generations to be crowned for the first time.
The Chinese number one repeated the feat four years later but, except for his Masters glory in 2011, Ding has also suffered from a long barren run in Triple Crown tournaments.
There were once times when genuine predictions were made about Maguire or Ding dominating the game, such was and has been their pedigree.
While they have both conjured up varying degrees of success, it’s probably fair to say that they have each underachieved given the talent at their disposal.
Funnily enough, both players had their confidence levels knocked with a succession of bruising defeats against Ronnie O’Sullivan when they were still in the fledgling years of their careers.
It would be unfair to say that they have never recovered but any air of initial invincibility that they originally boasted suddenly disappeared, never really to be reversed.
Both Ding and Maguire are similar in that they can often struggle with the mental side of the game.
It’s probably what makes this UK Championship final so interesting, because it will be fascinating to see who holds his nerve the best after such a long spell away from the absolute big-time.
Of course, the pair has obviously produced a terrific standard to reach this stage, where they’ll be fighting it out for the £200,000 top prize.
Ding’s standout display came at reigning champion O’Sullivan’s expense in the last 16, a poignant victory for the 32 year-old and a true signal that his form had finally returned.
The former world number one has been suffering in the doldrums for the best part of two years and, with his top 16 place in doubt, there were whispers as to whether he would ever recover.
Recover he has and the reality with Ding is that, even though it seems like he’s been around forever, he is still young enough to have many more cracks at accumulating these kinds of titles.
🗣 “I can’t play until Nigel Bond’s age, but I’ll try”
Ding Junhui is into the @betway UK Championship final.
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) December 7, 2019
For Maguire, this opportunity may not present itself again too frequently in the future.
Perhaps that’s what made his semi-final 6-0 thrashing of Mark Allen so impressive, compiling a brace of centuries and leaving his opponent pointless in all but two frames.
Maguire has numerous semi-final disappointments in his memory bank so it was indicative of his mood that he was able to produce so effortlessly.
The Glaswegian, 38, is harbouring an ankle injury but is high on confidence after already claiming two pieces of silverware this season.
Maguire partnered John Higgins to glory in the World Cup for Scotland, before lifting the Six Red World Championship trophy for a second time in Bangkok.
Meanwhile, Ding and Maguire’s head-to-head record makes for some incredible reading.
In their 13 previous encounters, they have notched up six wins apiece with one draw in the now defunct Premier League.
But what makes it surprising is that Maguire’s six victories all occurred more than ten years ago, with Ding triumphing the last six times they have crossed paths.
Whether that will have a bearing on the outcome remains to be seen but, given the fact that Ding has won 13 ranking titles to Maguire’s five, the former would probably represent the marginal favourite either way.
Still, this edition hasn’t been the easiest to forecast and a dramatic, nervy UK Championship final could be in store.