The first Players Championship semi-final gets under way later on Friday with the contest between Judd Trump and Stephen Maguire.
Yan Bingtao and Shaun Murphy will feature in the other last four clash at the Southport Waterfront tomorrow.
There has been an air of symmetry to Trump and Maguire’s progress in the second Coral Series event of the campaign so far.
While the world champion has won both of his matches with a 6-3 scoreline, Maguire has been taken the distance in his couple of ties by both Ding Junhui and Mark Selby.
The Glaswegian has put himself within touching distance of a place in the top eight on the one-year rankings list.
The players in those positions after the Gibraltar Open next month will qualify for the lucrative Tour Championship.
Trump, of course, is already assured of his invitation to Llandudno after a stellar campaign in which he has claimed four ranking titles and pocketed more than half a million pounds in prize money.
A triumph this week for the 30 year-old would see him equal the record for most ranking trophies collected in a single term.
It’s difficult to see past the world number one in this fixture, but Maguire has underlined his ability to dig deep this week when the going has gotten tough.
The latter has lost his last three encounters against Trump, though, and has an inferior record overall from their prior head-to-head battles.
Maguire proved his pedigree by reaching the UK Championship final in December but will likely have to raise his game if he’s to pose a serious threat to the world’s best player at present.
Stephen Maguire says the “wheels came off” after Mark Selby fought back from 4-1 down to get back on level terms.
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) February 27, 2020
While Trump has undoubtedly represented the player of the season in general, the second Players Championship semi-final boasts two competitors who haven’t done too badly for themselves either.
Murphy continued his recent run of form following his recent glory in the Welsh Open with a 6-2 victory over close pal Mark Allen.
The “Magician” faces a Chinese cueist who is quickly establishing himself as a more consistent force in the game.
Yan, the Riga Masters champion, held his nerve after appearing to suffer a late collapse against Joe Perry in the last eight, losing a 5-2 advantage before finally clinching the win on the final black in dramatic fashion.
Murphy and Yan don’t have to go too far back for their last encounter with one another, the duo having met at the same stage in Cardiff only two weeks ago.
The 2005 world champion prevailed in a decider on that occasion, and despite a 4-2 head-to-head advantage Murphy knows that he’ll likely be embroiled in another huge battle if he’s to reach a fifth tournament final of the campaign.
Matches involving these two have generally lasted the distance or close to it, so it could be a late finish again on Saturday night.
Each Players Championship semi-final will again be played over the best of 11 frames, with the winners moving one step closer to the £125,000 top prize.
Players Championship Draw (Semi-Finals)
Judd Trump (1) vs Stephen Maguire (12)
Yan Bingtao (6) vs Shaun Murphy (2)
Live coverage is on ITV4.
Click here to view the full draw. (Times: CET)
Photo credit: WST