Mark Allen is just a single win away from becoming the newest world number one in snooker.
Should the Northern Irishman reach a maiden World Championship final in Sheffield, he would be guaranteed to finish the 2022/23 campaign in top spot on the official two-year ranking list.
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s shock demise at the quarter-final stage in Sheffield on Wednesday has left the door ajar for Allen.
O’Sullivan has failed to reach any ranking tournament semi-finals during this term – an unusual streak that continued with his 13-10 defeat to Luca Brecel at the Crucible Theatre.
Allen, by contrast, has been the form man of this term in general, winning three ranking titles and accumulating more than £650,000 in prize money from ranking events so far.
The Pistol successfully defended his Northern Ireland Open title in October just a few weeks after first reaching the final of the British Open in Milton Keynes.
Not long after his glory in Belfast, the 37 year-old captured the UK Championship trophy by overcoming three-time champion Ding Junhui in the final in York.
Then just after the New Year, Allen made it a hat-trick by acquiring more silverware upon winning the World Grand Prix.
Allen’s upsurge in form has been attributed to a new diet that saw him shed several stone in weight last summer.
Ironically, it was O’Sullivan who dished out the advice to smarten up and get fit upon convincingly beating the Antrim man at last year’s World Championship.
Allen has also benefited from a year of less distractions away from the baize, with the financial pressures that led to his public declaration of bankruptcy now by and large behind him.
Should he beat Mark Selby in their eagerly anticipated World Championship semi-final encounter, Allen would become just the 12th world number one in snooker history.
Ray Reardon was the first when rankings were first incorporated into the game during the mid-1970s and the World Championship was the only counting tournament.
From the early 1980s, ranking events became more prominent on the calendar and these days the majority of events carry points that are relevant to the rolling two-year standings.
After Reardon, Cliff Thorburn had a brief spell as the world number one before Steve Davis dominated the remainder of the ’80s and then Stephen Hendry subsequently enjoyed a stranglehold at the top of the sport in the 1990s.
O’Sullivan, John Higgins, and Mark Williams exchanged top spot between them for several seasons until 2011.
Since then, Selby himself has featured at the summit of the rankings on the most occasions, with O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, and Ding Junhui also managing spells as the number one across the last decade.
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If Allen loses in the semi-final, O’Sullivan will definitely finish this season as the world number one instead.
Given how he’s defending the ranking points he tallied by winning the 2021 World Championship, the highest Selby can finish this season is in third place.
The other last-four showdown sees Belgian ninth seed Brecel take on Chinese 20 year-old Si Jiahui.
Both players have already secured their highest ever ranking positions regardless of what happens next in Sheffield.
Brecel can finish the season no lower than seventh and could go as high as second, while qualifier Si has already risen to number 36 by reaching the semi-finals on his Crucible debut.
For the full World Snooker Championship draw, results, live scores, and session times, click here.
Featured photo credit: WST