Mark Allen and Zhou Yuelong will compete for the Alex Higgins Trophy in the 2022 Northern Ireland Open final on Sunday.
Allen is hoping to retain the crown he captured on home soil twelve months ago, while Zhou is bidding for a maiden title at this level.
The latter produced a scintillating performance during his semi-final victory over Anthony McGill on Saturday, compiling four century breaks to beat the Scot 6-4.
Allen made a brace of ton contributions of his own in a surprisingly one-sided 6-2 defeat of Neil Robertson in the second last-four clash.
The Antrim man has enjoyed a terrific start to the 2022/23 campaign, with this run representing his second in succession to a ranking event final.
The 36 year-old lost the title decider of the British Open to Ryan Day at the start of this month.
Like in that showdown, Allen will start this contest at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast as a pretty heavy favourite for glory.
Chasing a seventh career ranking triumph, the Pistol will have vocal local support on his side as he attempts to successfully defend a ranking title for the second time in his career.
Zhou, meanwhile, is within one victory of landing a first ranking title, having been denied at this hurdle on two prior occasions.
The 24 year-old’s appearances at this stage both came in 2020, when he suffered a humiliating 9-0 thrashing at the hands of Robertson in the European Masters final before missing out in the Snooker Shoot Out to Michael Holt not long after.
The Chinese competitor – a former IBSF world amateur champion – has watched on as compatriots Yan Bingtao, Zhao Xintong, and Fan Zhengyi have revelled in the limelight of late by attaining silverware of their own.
Of the head-to-head, Allen and Zhou have crossed paths only twice before with the duo sharing one win apiece.
However, the first of those encounters was a multi-session affair like the best-of-17 tie today, with Zhou prevailing 10-7 at the 2019 World Championship.
Whether that history will have a bearing on the outcome of the Northern Ireland Open final remains to be seen.
One thing is for sure, there’s bound to be an electric atmosphere as Allen chases a sweet double in front of his adoring fans.
Live coverage is available via Eurosport and Quest in the UK and Ireland, with other options around the world also available.
Featured photo credit: WST