Ronnie O’Sullivan will become the new world number one if he can win the Welsh Open title this week in Newport.
Mark Selby’s defeat to Liam Highfield in the last 64 of the competition at the Celtic Manor Resort on Wednesday means the Jester’s position is under threat again.
O’Sullivan, who will face fellow former Welsh Open champion Ding Junhui in the last 32, hasn’t held the world number one spot since 2019.
The Rocket previously had an opportunity to regain the coveted ranking in last month’s Players Championship, but a quarter-final defeat meant he came up short.
O’Sullivan is currently £35,000 behind Selby on the provisional two-year rankings, meaning that if he were to land the £70,000 top prize in Wales it would be enough to see him usurp his old rival.
The 46 year-old has already won the World Grand Prix this season and was narrowly beaten in the final of last week’s European Masters in Milton Keynes.
While there are still five more wins required this week to land the Home Nations crown, O’Sullivan is the favourite to progress from his half of the draw at least.
Selby wasn’t the only high-profile casualty of that section on the third day, with John Higgins losing to Ali Carter and Mark Allen being dumped by Joe Perry as well.
There are still plenty of heavy hitters left in the hunt, though, with Neil Robertson and Judd Trump among those in the top half of the draw.
On Thursday, the action continues with the remaining matches from the last 32 before the quarter-finalists will be determined later on.
The Welsh Open is also the seventh leg out of eight on the European Series, from which the highest earner will earn a bumper bonus worth £150,000.
Last 32 Draw Mitchell Mann 0-4 Matthew Stevens Zhang Anda 4-2 Yuan Sijun Hossein Vafaei vs Jak Jones Ryan Day vs Shaun Murphy Neil Robertson 4-1 Graeme Dott Barry Hawkins vs Ben Woollaston Jimmy Robertson 4-2 Fergal O'Brien Si Jiahui 2-4 Judd Trump Ronnie O'Sullivan vs Ding Junhui Yan Bingtao vs Ricky Walden Joe Perry 4-3 Mark Allen Matthew Selt vs Kyren Wilson John Higgins 2-4 Ali Carter Kurt Maflin 1-4 Scott Donaldson Jack Lisowski vs Elliot Slessor Michael White vs Liam Highfield
Live coverage is available on Eurosport, Quest, BBC Wales, or via other channels depending on your location.
Featured photo credit: WST