The final eight prepare to do battle at the York Barbican on Friday as the 2019 UK Championship enters its business end.
No less than 120 players have departed the competition over the past ten days, leaving four former champions and a clutch of dangerous outsiders left to compete for the £200,000 Triple Crown title.
Reigning and back-to-back Betway UK Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan was sent packing on his birthday on Thursday, following world number one and pre-tournament favourite Judd Trump out of the exit door.
Ding Junhui, the man responsible for bringing down ‘The Rocket’ and ending his 17-match unbeaten run in York, now aims to follow up that remarkable display with another strong showing when he faces Chinese compatriot Liang Wenbo.
A match which will capture the imagination of a vast snooker nation sees China’s two most successful cueists collide for the first time in this competition.
Their last two meetings have each gone to last-frame deciders, with Ding edging 13-12 and 6-5 wins in the 2017 World Championship and 2019 International Championship respectively.
Ding has remained on course for a third UK Championship title, ten years from the last, with 6-2 wins over Duane Jones and Michael Georgiou before denying Ali Carter and O’Sullivan 6-4, while 2015 runner-up Liang has seen off Jamie Clarke, Xiao Guodong, Marco Fu and Li Hang with impressive scoring displays.
Another mouth-watering tie in the afternoon session sees three-time UK Champion John Higgins take on Riga Masters champion Yan Bingtao.
World number five Higgins, who has triumphed in three different decades (1998, 2000 and 2010), is out to reach the Semi-Finals of a third straight ranking tournament having come through a tough test against Stuart Bingham in the Last 16.
Yan has seen off top 16 stars Jack Lisowski and Neil Robertson en route to this stage of the tournament for the first time and in pursuit of his own return to the world’s elite top 16 as the youngest player left standing in the competition.
Two former UK Champions in consecutive years face off in the evening session as 2003 winner Matthew Stevens takes on 2004 champion Stephen Maguire.
Maguire, who was also runner-up in 2007, has flown under the radar this week, defeating the likes of Graeme Dott and Michael White to progress to his first ranking Quarter-Final of the season just weeks after breaking his ankle and being forced to play with a protective boot on his foot at the Champion of Champions.
Stevens, meanwhile, has enjoyed a superb resurgence in this tournament so far, overcoming Ryan Day and Anthony Hamilton before holding his nerve to edge out three-time World Champion Mark Selby in a last-frame decider past midnight on Thursday.
Welsh ace Stevens, now ranked 43, is appearing in his first ranking Quarter-Final since the International Championship in November 2018.
Mark Allen, runner-up here in 2011 and 2018, steps up his quest to go one better when he comes up against former world finalist Nigel Bond – who has rolled back the years to defy the odds so far.
Allen has come through two deciding frame shoot-outs this week, most recently against Kurt Maflin on Wednesday and is now the bookmakers’ favourite to add this prestigious title to his 2018 Masters triumph.
Bond, meanwhile, has hit the headlines for his giant-killing exploits, having knocked out World Champion Judd Trump in the Last 32 before recovering from 5-2 down to deny Gary Wilson in a decider on Thursday.
At the age of 54, world number 98 Bond has become the oldest UK Championship quarter-finalist in 39 years since Fred Davis in 1980 at 67.
The action gets underway from 1pm GMT, with Quarter-Final matches to be contested over the best of 11 frames.
Betway UK Championship 2019 Match Schedule
Friday December 6
Ding Junhui v Liang Wenbo
John Higgins v Yan Bingtao
Stephen Maguire v Matthew Stevens
Mark Allen v Nigel Bond