John Higgins is looking to go one step better at this year’s Champion of Champions, starting against Hossein Vafaei on Monday.
The Wizard and the Prince of Persia collide at the Bolton Whites Hotel for a place in the Group Four final, where Mark Selby awaits.
Higgins was runner-up to an inspired Judd Trump last year; the Ace reeling off 10 of the 11 frames from 3-0 down to run out a commanding 10-4 winner.
The 2016 champion had beaten Ding Junhui, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Yan Bingtao on route to the showpiece, where he narrowly missed out on becoming the third multiple winner of the prestigious invitational event after the Rocket (three titles) and Neil Robertson (two).
One of only four ever-presents at this tournament – after Robertson, Trump and Mark Selby – Higgins would love another strong run to kickstart his season, with a semi-final appearance at the eight-player Hong Kong Masters representing his best performance so far.
The Wizard has prevailed in each of his three previous meetings with debutant Vafaei, for whom it has been an eventful start to the campaign.
The reigning Shoot Out winner came flying out of the blocks as he produced the first maximum break of his career against three-time World Women’s champion Ng On Yee in qualifying for the European Masters.
However, he then controversially withdrew from the event on the eve of his scheduled clash with Xiao Guodong in Furth, and subsequently returned to Iran for some time away from the sport.
The world number 20 has won three of the five matches he has contested since, including a run to the Northern Ireland Open last 32 earlier this month.
The winner of this match will play Selby in the Group Four final later on Monday.
Play gets underway at around 2.30pm GMT with the match contested over the best of seven frames at the Bolton Whites Hotel.
How to watch Higgins v Vafaei live stream
2) Register an account, place a £10 first bet and get £50 in Free Bets* (18+ only, T&Cs apply)
3) Once registered, go to the sports homepage and select ‘Snooker’ from the left-hand menu
4) Select the play icon next to the match in progress and the stream window will appear
*18+ only. New Customers only. Bet £10* & Get £50* in Free Bets. Sign up, deposit between £5* and £10* to your account and bet365 will give you five times that value in Free Bets when you place qualifying bets to the same value and they are settled. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits. Min odds/bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. T&Cs, time limits & exclusions apply. BeGambleAware.org. *or currency equivalent.