Judd Trump and John Higgins will face each other in the first Players Championship quarter-final later on Wednesday – a repeat of last year’s World Championship final.
Eight out of the 16 players from the one-year rankings list who qualified for this week’s ranking event in Southport have already bitten the dust.
UK champion Ding Junhui and the in-form Neil Robertson were among some of the early casualties from the opening round – the latter losing to Joe Perry despite compiling a hat-trick of century breaks.
Defeat for World Grand Prix champion Robertson also opens up the Coral Cup race, with a £100,000 bonus on offer for the player who performs the best across the Coral Series.
Trump, the top seed having accumulated the most earnings on the circuit this season, overcame Sunday’s Shoot Out champion Michael Holt with a 6-3 scoreline.
The Englishman faces Higgins in a clash that will refresh memories of their 2019 Sheffield showdown, when Trump produced a performance of a lifetime to hammer the Scot 18-9 at the Crucible.
The pair has crossed paths twice since then, with both encounters being won by the 30 year-old – making it three wins on the bounce for Trump against an opponent he previously struggled against.
Higgins, who beat countryman Graeme Dott in the last 16, hasn’t won a ranking event in over two years, and it’s questionable whether he’s producing the kind of level at present – particularly in scoring – that can properly challenge Trump.
The other Players Championship quarter-final in the top half of the draw sees Mark Selby take on Stephen Maguire.
Maguire gained a modicum of revenge against Ding on the opening night, edging the Chinese 6-5 just a couple of months after losing the UK Championship final to the same opponent.
Selby, by contrast, annihilated Mark Williams with a thoroughly one-sided 6-0 whitewash win.
The “Jester” boasts a superior head-to-head advantage from his prior battles with Maguire, winning ten out of their 17 duels since first meeting in 2003.
While Selby is assured of a spot in next month’s prestigious Tour Championship – the final event of three in the Coral Series that features only the top eight in the one-year rankings list – Maguire is currently just outside the running.
Yet, victory for the Glaswegian would go a long way in boosting his chances of reaching Llandudno.
Meanwhile, second seed Shaun Murphy is involved in the bottom half of the draw.
The “Magician” held off a fight back from David Gilbert to prolong his recent run of form after winning the Welsh Open earlier in February.
This ComeOn Casino review has more information about an emerging betting market that rates Murphy as the 9/2 second favourite behind Trump this week.
Murphy will face Mark Allen in his Players Championship quarter-final tie – the Northern Irishman beating Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 6-2.
Allen has had a consistent season and has made a number of semi-final appearances in tournaments, but so far silverware eludes him.
One of the semi-final matches occurred in the Shanghai Masters when Allen suffered a heavy 10-3 reverse against Murphy, and the 2005 world champion has generally enjoyed the better of their contests overall.
Finally, Joe Perry and Yan Bingtao clash after each conjured upsets of sorts on Tuesday.
Perry withstood Robertson’s barrage of break-building to prevail 6-4 while Yan outplayed Kyren Wilson to secure a 6-2 triumph.
Interestingly, this is the first time that 20 year-old Yan has faced the experienced Perry as both, at the opposite ends of their careers, bid to claim a second career ranking success.
Players Championship Draw (Quarter-Finals)
Judd Trump (1) vs John Higgins (8)
Stephen Maguire (12) vs Mark Selby (4)
Joe Perry (14) vs Yan Bingtao (6)
Mark Allen (7) vs Shaun Murphy (2)