A high-quality octet will vie to reach the last four.
Six former champions continue to fight strongly as the Welsh Open draw reaches the quarter-finals stage on Friday at the Celtic Manor.
A hectic fourth day on Thursday saw two more rounds completed, with world number one Judd Trump and Masters champion Yan Bingtao among the major casualties.
However, an elite field will still assemble on day five, each with the intention of reaching the semi-finals of what is the last Home Nations tournament of the campaign.
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Ali Carter
Ronnie O’Sullivan, who is bidding for a record-equalling fifth Welsh Open crown, is the new favourite after dominating his opponents to the loss of just one frame across his four matches so far.
The world champion will take on 2009 Welsh Open champion Ali Carter in the last eight after the “Captain” prolonged his recent run of form that began with impressive displays in last week’s Championship League.
O’Sullivan and Carter share an infamous rivalry, with two World Championship finals and another notable Crucible clash three years ago when the latter prevailed amid a shoulder-barge fiasco.
Words have been exchanged since, with both sides offering varying versions of what transpired in the aftermath of that fiery encounter.
The pair has crossed paths on three occasions this season with a hat-trick of victories going O’Sullivan’s way, and the 45 year-old will undoubtedly be the most-fancied again here.
Mark Williams vs Tom Ford
Elsewhere in the bottom half of the draw, Mark Williams became the first player to reach the quarter-finals of a Welsh Open since 2016 after overcoming Trump’s conqueror Hossein Vafaei yesterday evening.
Indeed, Williams is the only former home champion, albeit those successes came more than two decades ago.
The three-time world champion takes on Tom Ford, who gained revenge on Jack Lisowski in a dramatic fourth-round fixture that concluded on the final colours.
Ford lost to Lisowski in the semi-finals of last month’s German Masters, but the former now has another opportunity to reach that hurdle of a ranking event again.
That said, the signs aren’t great for the man from Leicester, who boasts a shocking win-loss record against Williams.
Only once from a dozen attempts has the 37 year-old denied the former world number one, and that sole victory occurred more than five years ago.
Welsh players have been notoriously bad on home soil in this event, but perhaps the lack of a crowd will help pave the way for a local success on this occasion.
Shaun Murphy vs Stephen Maguire
While O’Sullivan and Carter have their history, the very same can be said about Shuan Murphy and Stephen Maguire.
This heavyweight top-half battle includes two players who have never really been fond of one another.
Reigning champion Murphy continued his defence with a magnificent high-scoring ousting of Ryan Day – compiling a century and fourth additional breaks above 60 – before a more scrappy 4-3 downing of Barry Hawkins in his double-header on Thursday.
Maguire, meanwhile, also knows how to win in Wales after triumphing at the old Newport Centre eight years ago.
The Scot recorded a brace of 4-2 victories in the third and fourth rounds to reach the last eight of a ranking event for the first time this season.
This duo has encountered each other a lot over the years, with 26 meetings in all competitions since 2001.
Murphy leads the head-to-head 14-12, but there’s not a lot to separate them and they haven’t actually played each other in almost three years to the day.
At 7/1, Murphy is the third favourite for glory in the betting market behind fellow Englishmen O’Sullivan and Mark Selby.
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Mark Selby vs Jordan Brown
Finally, in a repeat of their first-round tie at the Crucible Theatre last August, Mark Selby takes on the only surprise package left in the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open draw in Jordan Brown.
The 33 year-old from County Antrim made his maiden ranking event last-eight appearance in the German Masters, and just like buses another chance to embark on a run to the last four of a competition has come his way.
Brown has certainly done it the hard way to get this far, relying on three gritty performances that have lasted the distance.
Against both Alexander Ursenbacher and Mark King, Brown fought back from behind to win nail-biting deciders.
Selby was also involved in tough duels with Joe O’Connor and Yan Bingtao, but the Scottish Open winner emerged with his trademark brinkmanship reliability.
With Trump out, the 37 year-old can build momentum for his European Series order of merit chase.
The highest earner after a six-event swing – the Welsh Open is the fifth counting tournament – will pocket a tidy sum worth £150,000.
Selby began the week just £12,500 behind Trump, but he would leapfrog his fellow Englishman into first place if he overcomes Brown.
Players Championship Rankings Race
The European Series isn’t the most pressing rankings race to be concerned about, though.
Next week’s Players Championship final line-up is still to be determined, with only the top 16 on the one-year standings gaining qualification.
Murphy and Ford have leapfrogged their way into contention, knocking out Jamie Jones and Zhao Xintong in the process.
However, their spots are still not guaranteed with Williams, Maguire, Carter, and Brown among those in the chasing pack.
With the main event and a couple of subplots to follow, it promises to be an intriguing few days in Wales.
Welsh Open Quarter-Finals Draw
Shaun Murphy (1) vs Stephen Maguire (8)
Mark Selby (5) vs Jordan Brown
Mark Williams (14) vs Tom Ford
Ali Carter vs Ronnie O’Sullivan (2)
Live coverage of the 2021 Welsh Open is available on BBC Wales, the BBC Red Button, Eurosport, Quest, and by various other options around the world.
Click here to view the full Welsh Open draw (Scheduled times in CET)
Featured photo credit: WST