Mark Williams won his first three matches to reach the last 16 of the Gibraltar Open on Friday at the Europa Point Sports Complex.
The Welshman was joined in the fourth round by Kyren Wilson and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh after early Gibraltar Open wins kept alive hopes of qualifying for next week’s lucrative Tour Championship.
The WST announced that the ranking event in Llandudno is provisionally scheduled to go ahead despite widespread cancellations in the world of sport due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
With the top eight in the one-year money list earning an invitation, Williams, Wilson, or Un-Nooh could usurp John Higgins with a tournament triumph this weekend in Gibraltar.
Williams squeezed through his opening hurdle with a 4-3 victory over Kacper Filipiak before overcoming Zhou Yuelong and Martin Gould as well.
The Welshman will face Tian Pengfei on Sunday with four more Gibraltar Open wins needed to lift the trophy and pocket the £50,000 top prize.
Un-Nooh, meanwhile, defeated Gary Wilson in the first round and in doing so ended the latter’s slim hopes of breaking into the top 16 of the world rankings before the World Championship qualifiers in Sheffield next month.
Un-Nooh followed that with comfortable victories over Mei Xiwen and Harvey Chandler, while Wilson counted Luca Brecel as one of his initial conquests.
The pair could face off in the quarter-finals but will have to dislodge the challenges of Ben Woollaston and Fergal O’Brien respectively first.
O’Brien is currently set to drop off the Main Tour and lose his professional status for the first time in almost three decades, so the Dubliner needs a positive end to the campaign to guarantee survival.
For Woollaston, the Englishman ended the defence of reigning champion Stuart Bingham with a 4-0 success in the last 32.
The two other competitors to make it to the final day were Lyu Haotian, who beat Mark Selby, and David Grace.
Saturday will see the remaining half of the draw played out with the likes of Judd Trump and Jack Lisowski entering the fray.
In what has already been a stellar season for the world number one, Trump could snatch the £150,000 bonus on offer for the inaugural European Series if he were to capture yet more silverware.
Of course, glory for the world champion would also represent a record-breaking sixth ranking event triumph in a single season.
Joe Perry is another interesting contender as the former Masters finalist also attempts to reach the Tour Championship, not to mention break into the top 16 in the world rankings.
The 45 year-old needs a minimum of a run to the final in order to secure an automatic place at the Crucible, with Barry Hawkins conversely defending his membership in the elite bracket.
Yan Bingtao is currently holding onto the coveted 16th spot provisionally but lost in the opening round on Friday, albeit the Chinese number two would have an opportunity to earn more vital ranking points if next week’s Tour Championship goes ahead as planned.
Plenty of permutations to follow then this week in Gibraltar.
Live coverage of the Gibraltar Open is on Eurosport.
Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)
Featured Photo: WST