Sixteen players have been whittled down to just four at the Marshall Arena.
The semi-finals of the Masters take place on Saturday, with two further wins needed to capture the prestigious Paul Hunter Trophy in Milton Keynes.
John Higgins is the favourite for glory after a magnificent 6-3 victory over record seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan on Friday evening.
The Scot produced a scintillating performance – boasting breaks of 145, 134, 110, and 88 – to see off the challenge of his long-time rival.
It has been 15 years since Higgins last featured in a Masters final, way back in 2006 when he triumphed at O’Sullivan’s expense for his second crown in the competition.
Indeed, while Higgins has been a constant winner throughout his career, it’s now almost three years since he has won an individual title of any note on the professional circuit.
The 45 year-old will take on David Gilbert in the last four with the latter having embarked on a run to the semi-finals of the Masters for the second successive season.
However, the contrast in their respective quarter-final displays could not have been much greater.
Where Gilbert somehow defied a low pot-success rate to scramble past Kyren Wilson, Higgins was practically at his peak with both his potting and safety in the high-90 percentile.
The pair has crossed paths on eleven previous occasions in all competitions, with the four-time world champion boasting an imposing 9-2 record.
That includes their most recent clash in a Triple Crown event when Higgins denied Gilbert a place in the 2019 World Championship final with a gripping 17-16 triumph in Sheffield.
It’ll be difficult for Higgins to maintain the same level of play and intensity as he did against O’Sullivan, but even if his standard drops a little, Gilbert will likely need to raise his game considerably to have any chance of causing an upset.
The opening clash on the penultimate day of action, meanwhile, will see defending champion Stuart Bingham entertain debutant Yan Bingtao.
Bingham overcame Shaun Murphy 6-3 in a scrappy affair while Yan possessed nerves of steel to prevail in a second decider of the week – compiling a career-high total clearance of 141 to pip Stephen Maguire 6-5.
This fixture is much harder to predict on paper, although Bingham would probably have the slight edge given his vast experience.
The 44 year-old could become the first maiden Masters champion to successfully defend the title since Paul Hunter achieved the feat almost two decades ago.
Disagree with Hendry that there will be an asterisk next to Yan Bingtao’s Masters debut.
Do the winners of all tournaments back to Gibraltar have one by their success?
Dealing with no crowd, for some, is as tricky as dealing with the crowd for others. Just a different challenge
— Phil Haigh (@philhaigh_) January 15, 2021
China’s Yan, by contrast, is attempting to become the youngest finalist in a Triple Crown event since countryman Ding’s runner-up placing as a 19 year-old in the 2007 Masters.
Yan, a few weeks shy of his 21st birthday, actually enjoys a superior head-to-head record over Bingham, with four wins to the Englishman’s three from their seven prior duels.
Interestingly, the youngster has prevailed in each of their last three ties, albeit never over the best-of-11 frames or on an occasion of this magnitude.
With so many heavy-hitters already out, Bingham must be fancying his chances of adding to his major haul and thus prolong what has been a stellar second half of his career.
But Yan, the 2019 Riga Masters champion, is a dangerous and eager opponent who will equally be seeking to advance his fledgling career with success in the sport’s second-oldest tournament.
Live coverage is being provided by Eurosport and the BBC across Ireland and the UK, with further broadcasts also available around the world.
The Masters Semi-Finals Draw
Stuart Bingham (1) vs Yan Bingtao (12) [Saturday, 1pm]
David Gilbert (13) vs John Higgins (7) [Saturday, 7pm]
Click here to view the full draw (Times in CET)
Full credit to the broadcasters – BBC and Eurosport – for interviewing Yan Bingtao.
Yan has a great record against Bingham. Their previous meeting featured the most remarkable turn-around in 2020 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_kBpbhly2E). Yan needed 3 snookers to win that match.