The English pair will renew their rivalry against one another in a mouthwatering showdown.
Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan will contest the Northern Ireland Open final for the third successive season on Sunday in Milton Keynes.
Trump scored heavily to see off the challenge of surprise semi-finalist David Grace with a 6-2 scoreline on Saturday evening, a few hours after O’Sullivan fought back from 3-1 behind to beat Ali Carter 6-3.
It’s only the second time in history that the same two players have fought in the final of the same ranking event for three years on the trot.
The last time was between 1992 and 1994 when Stephen Hendry overcame Jimmy White in each year’s World Championship at the Crucible Theatre.
Trump is likewise bidding for a clean sweep following his prior 9-7 successes over the “Rocket” in 2018 and 2019 in Belfast.
The 31 year-old would additionally become the first player since Hendry in 1996 to conjure up a threepeat in the same ranking event if he were to emerge with the £70,000 champion’s cheque again this weekend.
Meanwhile, O’Sullivan is hoping to claim his first silverware since lifting the World Championship trophy for a sixth time in August.
The 44 year-old boasts a marginally superior head-to-head record, but Trump will probably begin their latest clash as the slight favourite.
The world number one has continued the consistent form that earned him a record six ranking event titles in a single season last term.
Trump has so far reached the semi-finals or better in every tournament he’s participated in during the 2020/21 campaign, and he will be attempting to add the Alex Higgins Trophy to the Steve Davis Trophy he already raised aloft in October.
That this is the first season in which the £1 million bonus has been withdrawn for winning all four Home Nations series tournaments could be a cruel twist to his dominant reliability.
Trump’s ability to get the job done in title-deciding battles has been particularly impressive over the last couple of years.
Indeed, between winning this event for the first time in 2018 and claiming last month’s English Open, the “Juddernaut” went on a streak of ten ranking event finals and no defeats.
That run was snapped with a loss in the Championship League final to Kyren Wilson, albeit that encounter required a short format of only five frames.
Fate fulfilled ☑️
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) November 21, 2020
O’Sullivan has triumphed in a record 37 out of his previous 53 ranking event finals, and Trump has actually been the only player to beat the world number two in ranking event finals since 2016.
As has become the norm, it’s a pity that there will be no crowd in to watch the action unfold between two of the game’s greatest talents, just as it is an even bigger shame that this year’s final of the Northern Ireland Open won’t be played on its home soil.
Still, the duo has served up a treat in each of their last two finals in this competition and there is no reason to suggest that this will be any different.
Live coverage is available on Eurosport, Quest, and various other services.
Click here to view the draw – scheduled times in CET.
Featured photo credit: WST