It’s a heavyweight World Snooker Championship semi-final lineup at the Crucible Theatre.
Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Mark Williams, and Judd Trump will contest the last four in Sheffield.
Between them, the quartet boasts 14 world titles, the career Triple Crown, 116 ranking event victories, and they’ve all been the number one in the world rankings.
It promises to be a barnstorming few days with three from the fabled Class of ’92 going toe-to-toe alongside another player destined for legend status in Trump.
Later on, we’ll have a look at some of the other memorable World Championship semi-final foursomes.
But first, let’s take a look at each of these two blockbuster battles.
Mark Williams (8) vs Judd Trump (4)
After dominating his opponents in the first two rounds, Mark Williams was finally tested during his quarter-final bout with Yan Bingtao.
The Chinese competitor, who already accounted for defending champion Mark Selby, fought back from 6-2 behind to lead 11-10.
Williams, though, rallied to win the last three frames and secure a 13-11 triumph over the 22 year-old.
It was the first time that the 47 year-old was put under any sort of pressure, and he ultimately provided the substance to go along with the style he has already demonstrated in abundance this year.
Trump similarly produced when his back was against the wall, with the 32 year-old highlighting his often overlooked ability to dig deep when the going gets tough.
The Englishman was completely out of sorts during the middle session, his opponent Stuart Bingham taking advantage by winning five frames in a row to lead 8-5.
At this point, Trump was arguably playing the worst he has ever played at the Crucible, and it really looked as though Bingham might steamroll his way to victory.
But Ballrun inexplicably missed a straightforward black off the spot in the 14th frame, and the 2015 world champion completely fell apart.
Trump finally rediscovered some of his famous scoring prowess, reeling off the remaining frames for what transpired to be a resounding 13-8 success.
While Williams will contest a World Championship semi-final for the seventh time in his career, this run represents Trump’s fifth appearance in the final four.
The latter boasts a considerably better head-to-head record, but Williams has unquestionably played to a higher level so far in this tournament.
It’s a tough one to call, and at the beginning of the championship I had Trump reaching the final with a victory over Williams.
But having watched them in the heat of battle over the last dozen days, I’m going to reverse that prediction.
Williams may never get as close to winning a fourth world crown again so the pressure will be high, but if he continues to score as rampantly as he has done, he’ll be very difficult to overcome.
Prediction: Mark Williams 17-13 Judd Trump
Thursday, April 28th – 1pm
Friday, April 29th – 10am and 7pm
Saturday, April 30th – 2:30pm
John Higgins (6) vs Ronnie O’Sullivan (2)
As if the World Championship semi-final match in the top half of the draw wasn’t appetising enough, how about this belter?
For the sixth time at the Crucible Theatre, Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins will duel in a World Championship tie.
The most frequently played head-to-head match in the history of the professional game will add another chapter to its storybook.
Not to take away from Trump’s achievement in any way or leave him out of the discussion, but it’s truly remarkable what the Class of ’92 is doing.
Some people complain that they get too much attention, but there’s a reason for that – we’ll never have a trio like this one again.
That O’Sullivan could potentially beat Higgins and Williams en route to securing a record-equalling seventh world title is almost as poetic as it gets.
The Rocket has been in coast mode throughout this championship so far, easing past David Gilbert in the first round before thrashing both Mark Allen and Stephen Maguire.
O’Sullivan looks as sharp and as focussed as he has done for a long time, as though he recognises this is a golden chance to reach number seven.
Higgins, meanwhile, was pushed all the way in a bruising 13-12 triumph over Jack Lisowski in the last eight on Wednesday.
The Scot didn’t play well, and he hasn’t played particularly well throughout the tournament, but like all great champions he produced when it counted.
If it’s based on the form guide from this event alone, O’Sullivan must be considered the heavy favourite to progress.
Yet, Higgins has held the upper hand over O’Sullivan for a while now, winning six from their last seven clashes in all competitions.
That mini sequence includes several hidings, with a 10-3 destruction job at the 2021 Players Championship final a notable example.
Still, on that day Higgins was practically unbeatable, but he has looked vulnerable at the Crucible in all three of his matches.
O’Sullivan is unlikely to let the Wizard of Wishaw off the hook in the same manner as how Lisowski did in the last eight, and how Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Noppon Saengkham did before that.
Either way, just like the first World Championship semi-final, it’s going to be an occasion to savour.
Prediction: Ronnie O’Sullivan 17-12 John Higgins
Thursday, April 28th – 7pm
Friday, April 29th – 2:30pm
Saturday, April 30th – 10am and 7pm
Other Memorable Semi-Final Lineups
Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, John Parrott, Jimmy White
The original ‘Big Four’ and the only time that the World Championship semi-finals featured the tournament’s top four seeds.
Hendry, Parrott, and White were all seeking a maiden world title that would end Davis’ dominant run of the 1980s.
The Nugget, by now a six-time champion, was on a 19-game winning streak in Sheffield but White finally had his number in a 16-14 epic.
Hendry enjoyed an easier time of it against 1989 runner-up Parrott, the Scot clinching a 16-11 success to reach the final for the first time.
In the title decider, Hendry duly kick started his era of supremacy – both in Sheffield and over White – with an 18-12 defeat of the Whirlwind.
John Higgins, Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams
Not quite the top four in the world rankings at the time but already widely recognised as the new and potentially improved ‘Big Four’ in the game.
Higgins was the defending world champion and the world number one, but he was downed 17-10 by Williams in the semi-finals.
The other tie in the penultimate round saw Hendry deny O’Sullivan with a 17-13 scoreline – prolonging the latter’s wait for a first Crucible crown.
In the final, Hendry comprehensively beat Williams 18-11 to raise the World Championship trophy aloft for the record seventh time in the modern era.
John Higgins, Mark Williams, Ding Junhui, Judd Trump
The conclusion to the 2011 edition was one for the memory banks not only for the players involved, but also for the standard that was produced.
The three showdowns from the World Championship semi-final stage onward were each gripping affairs.
It was familiar territory for Higgins and Williams, but for Ding and Trump – then just 24 and 21 respectively – they were breaking new ground.
A magnificent match between the young duo ended 17-15 in Trump’s favour, who was showcasing his unique brand of “naughty snooker” to the world for the first time.
Williams, meanwhile, had fought back from the doldrums to sensationally reclaim the world number one position, while Higgins had a point to prove following a controversial six-month suspension.
The pair had clashed in that season’s UK Championship final with Higgins edging the Welshman, and it was the same outcome here.
The Scot would then proceed to land his fourth and most recent world title at Trump’s expense with an 18-15 triumph in the final amid an electric Crucible atmosphere.
Featured image credit: WST