Shaun Murphy beat Sean O’Sullivan 4-0 to reach the last 16 of the Northern Ireland Open on Wednesday.
The Magician compiled breaks of 80 and 70 while boasting a 98.7% pot-success rate, as he continued his bid to claim the Alex Higgins Trophy.
Murphy won the season-opening Championship League but has been absent from the latter stages of tournaments since then.
Yet with so many of the sport’s top stars either already out or having not entered this week, Murphy is the second-highest ranked player left in the draw behind Judd Trump.
Murphy has never been beyond the quarter-final stage at the Waterfront Hall, but he regards Belfast as one of his favourite destinations on the calendar.
Indeed, the 2005 world champion, who has lived in Dublin for a number of years, wishes there were more tournaments in Ireland overall.
“It’s wonderful. I think I tweeted before the tournament that it is one of my favourite stops,” Shaun Murphy told the World Snooker Tour.
“I think it’s one of everyone’s favourite stops on the tour of all the places we go.”
“It’s obviously very near for me, I only live two hours down the road in Dublin.
“But this island – the island of Ireland – is a bit of a sporting mecca, and the success of this event here for me highlights the shame that we don’t have a professional event in the Republic of Ireland.
“Maybe whoever is in charge of those decisions – be it WST, or I don’t know whether it’s a broadcaster in the Republic, I’m not sure.
“But it’d be great to see, because when we go out for a stroll and stretch our legs around Belfast, snooker is alive and well here.
“As someone who lives on the island, I can promise you that snooker is very, very popular here.
“It’d be great to one day have a professional event in the Republic as well.”
A 4-2 defeat for Jordan Brown against Yuan Sijun, meanwhile, means that the hopes of a Northern Irish winner for a third year on the trot has ended.
Cork’s Aaron Hill continues to go from strength to strength this season, however, with the 21 year-old thrashing Dylan Emery 4-0 to make it back-to-back appearances in the last 16 of ranking events.
Elsewhere, Jack Lisowski is through to the fourth round of the competition following a 4-1 defeat of Matthew Selt.
Lisowski, who meets Hill next, will be looking at the draw and thinking he has a great opportunity this week to finally seal that long overdue maiden ranking triumph.
Among the others to negotiate their latest hurdles were Ricky Walden and Stephen Maguire.
Both players are no strangers to the business end of events, but they have been enduring quiet periods on the circuit of late.
Rookie Stan Moody upset Gary Wilson, while Ronnie O’Sullivan’s late replacement Rory McLeod continued his strong run with a 4-3 success over Jak Jones.
Some of the other results on day four of the venue stages saw wins for Hossein Vafaei, David Gilbert, and Noppon Saengkham in the round of 64.
In the all-Williams battle between Mark and Robbie, it was the latter who prevailed to inflict another early exit on one of the top seeds.
By the end of Thursday’s action, the eight quarter-finalist in this year’s Northern Ireland Open will be known.
Northern Ireland Open Draw
Round of 128 (bo7)
Mark Allen 4-0 Ben Mertens
Andres Petrov 4-3 Sanderson Lam
Graeme Dott 4-0 Oliver Lines
David Grace 0-4 Zihao Xing
Ricky Walden 4-2 Ben Woollaston
Allan Taylor 1-4 Dominic Dale
Stuart Bingham 4-3 Ashley Hugill
Xu Si 4-2 Alexander Ursenbacher
Mohamed Ibrahim 2-4 Dean Young
Matthew Selt 4-1 Andy Lee
Liam Graham 0-4 Jackson Page
Jack Lisowski 4-1 Rebecca Kenna
David Lilley 1-4 Aaron Hill
Fan Zhengyi 4-2 Liu Hongyu
Dylan Emery 4-3 Martin Gould
Robert Milkins 3-4 Cao Yupeng
Shaun Murphy 4-2 Ryan Thomerson
Marco Fu 4-2 Jamie Jones
Joe O’Connor 2-4 Zak Surety
Andrew Higginson 2-4 Sean O’Sullivan
Ryan Day 3-4 Ma Hailong
Martin O’Donnell 4-3 Daniel Wells
Chris Wakelin 4-0 Anthony Hamilton
Alfie Burden 4-3 Mostafa Dorgham
Rod Lawler 4-0 Baipat Siripaporn
Zhou Yuelong 2-4 Stan Moody
Andrew Pagett 3-4 Lukas Kleckers
Gary Wilson 4-3 Louis Heathcote
Jamie Clarke 4-3 Alfie Davies
Xiao Guodong 1-4 Yuan Sijun
Jordan Brown 4-2 Stuart Carrington
Neil Robertson 4-1 Wu Yize
Judd Trump 4-1 Jenson Kendrick
Adam Duffy 1-4 Julien Leclercq
Pang Junxu 2-4 Ian Burns
Liam Highfield 3-4 Ken Doherty
Anthony McGill 4-3 Jimmy White
Robbie McGuigan 4-1 Muhammad Asif
Noppon Saengkham 4-0 Himanshu Jain
Manasawin Phetmalaikul 3-4 Barry Pinches
Mink Nutcharut 2-4 Michael White
Joe Perry 4-2 Ishpreet Singh Chadha
Long Zehuang 1-4 Anton Kazakov
Hossein Vafaei 4-1 Mark Joyce
James Cahill 4-1 Duane Jones
Stephen Maguire 4-3 Fergal O’Brien
Reanne Evans 0-4 Hammad Miah
Kyren Wilson 3-4 Sam Craigie
Mark Williams 4-1 Tian Pengfei
Liam Pullen 1-4 Robbie Williams
Si Jiahui 1-4 Zhang Anda
John Astley 0-4 Rory Thor
Barry Hawkins 4-1 Elliot Slessor
Andy Hicks 2-4 Jiang Jun
Jimmy Robertson 4-2 Sydney Wilson
Peng Yison 4-1 He Guoqiang
Matthew Stevens 4-2 Stephen Hendry
David Gilbert 4-1 Joel Connolly
Lyu Haotian 4-1 Ashley Carty
Tom Ford 4-0 Haydon Pinhey
Scott Donaldson 0-4 Mark Davis
Jak Jones 4-0 Oliver Brown
Victor Sarkis 2-4 Ross Muir
Rory McLeod 4-0 Ahmed Aly Elsayed
Round of 64 (bo7)
Mark Allen 3-4 Andres Petrov
Graeme Dott 1-4 Xing Zihao
Ricky Walden 4-3 Dominic Dale
Stuart Bingham 4-1 Xu Si
Dean Young 3-4 Matthew Selt
Jackson Page 1-4 Jack Lisowski
Aaron Hill 4-1 Fan Zhengyi
Dylan Emery 4-3 Cao Yupeng
Shaun Murphy 4-3 Marco Fu
Zak Surety 3-4 Sean O’Sullivan
Ma Hailong 1-4 Martin O’Donnell
Chris Wakelin 4-2 Alfie Burden
Rod Lawler 1-4 Stan Moody
Lukas Kleckers 1-4 Gary Wilson
Jamie Clarke 0-4 Yuan Sijun
Jordan Brown 4-1 Neil Robertson
Judd Trump 4-0 Julien Leclercq
Ian Burns 4-2 Ken Doherty
Anthony McGill 4-3 Robbie McGuigan
Noppon Saengkham 4-1 Barry Pinches
Michael White 3-4 Joe Perry
Anton Kazakov 0-4 Hossein Vafaei
James Cahill 2-4 Stephen Maguire
Hammad Miah 2-4 Sam Craigie
Mark Williams 2-4 Robbie Williams
Zhang Anda 4-1 Rory Thor
Barry Hawkins 4-1 Jiang Jun
Jimmy Robertson 4-0 Peng Yisong
Matthew Stevens 3-4 David Gilbert
Lyu Haotian 4-3 Tom Ford
Mark Davis 2-4 Jak Jones
Ross Muir 3-4 Rory McLeod
Round of 32 (bo7)
Andres Petrov 1-4 Xing Zihao
Ricky Walden 4-1 Stuart Bingham
Matthew Selt 1-4 Jack Lisowski
Aaron Hill 4-0 Dylan Emery
Shaun Murphy 4-0 Sean O’Sullivan
Martin O’Donnell 1-4 Chris Wakelin
Stan Moody 4-2 Gary Wilson
Yuan Sijun 4-2 Jordan Brown
Judd Trump 4-2 Ian Burns
Anthony McGill 0-4 Noppon Saengkham
Joe Perry 4-3 Hossein Vafaei
Stephen Maguire 4-2 Sam Craigie
Robbie Williams 4-1 Zhang Anda
Barry Hawkins 4-1 Jimmy Robertson
David Gilbert 4-1 Lyu Haotian
Jak Jones 3-4 Rory McLeod
Round of 16 (bo7)
Xing Zihao 1-4 Ricky Walden
Jack Lisowski 4-1 Aaron Hill
Shaun Murphy 2-4 Chris Wakelin
Stan Moody 2-4 Yuan Sijun
Judd Trump 4-3 Noppon Saengkham
Joe Perry 3-4 Stephen Maguire
Robbie Williams 0-4 Barry Hawkins
David Gilbert 4-0 Rory McLeod
Ricky Walden 1-5 Jack Lisowski
Chris Wakelin 5-2 Yuan Sijun
Judd Trump 5-4 Stephen Maguire
Barry Hawkins 5-4 David Gilbert
Jack Lisowski 1-6 Chris Wakelin
Judd Trump 6-4 Barry Hawkins
Chris Wakelin 3-9 Judd Trump
Featured photo credit: WST