Round One draws to a close at the 2020 Players Championship on Wednesday, while the opening Quarter-Final sees two World Champions collide.
World Grand Prix champion Neil Robertson and Welsh Open finalist Kyren Wilson are two of the notable names to have crashed out at the first hurdle this week, now just two more Quarter-Final places are up for grabs.
The afternoon session at the Waterfront in Southport sees two quick-fire left-handers do battle as Mark Allen takes on Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.
Allen has been this season’s ‘nearly man’ so far, having lost in four ranking Semi-Finals as well as a further two invitational Semi-Finals.
The five-time ranking event winner, however, has suffered First Round exits in three of his last four tournaments but holds fond memories of this competition, having claimed the title in Manchester four years ago.
Semi-finalist 12 months ago, Allen is bidding for a first win over Un-Nooh in four attempts, with this their first meeting since 2016.
Un-Nooh has already paved the way to become Thailand’s most successful-ever snooker player, having stormed to the verge of the world’s top 16 as a winner of the 2019 Shoot-Out and runner-up in this season’s World Open.
The heavy-scoring cueist is making his first appearance in this competition since 2015 and is looking to bounce back from successive First Round exits in traditional ranking competition.
Another finely-poised First Round tie sees Welsh Open champion Shaun Murphy take on four-time ranking finalist David Gilbert.
Murphy has found form at the business end of the season, securing his ninth ranking title at the Welsh Open a fortnight ago to follow up a Semi-Final run at the German Masters.
Seeded number two in Southport, ‘The Magician’ has a strong record in the Players Championship, going all the way back in 2011 and finishing runner-up in 2018.
Gilbert, meanwhile, has cemented himself as a top 16 player after his breakthrough run to the Semi-Finals of last year’s World Championship, finishing runner-up in the English Open and reaching the Semi-Finals of The Masters.
The world number 11 has not been beyond the First Round of this event since 2014 but will feel he has both the form and confidence to mount a serious title challenge this week.
The evening session plays host to a mouth-watering opening Quarter-Final as Judd Trump and John Higgins collide in a repeat of the 2019 World Championship final.
Trump is already enjoying his best season to date, having racked up four ranking titles, and will look to head to The Crucible on a high by adding to that tally between now and April.
The world number one boasts a superb record in this competition, having reaching at least the Semi-Final stage in five of his last six appearances, notably claiming glory in 2017.
Trump defied a 95 per cent pot success rate from Michael Holt to see off the Shoot-Out winner 6-3 in Round One and is now bidding for a fourth consecutive win over Higgins.
Higgins is aiming to come alive at the business end of the campaign after a relatively quiet season by his standards, with Semi-Final runs at the World Open and Northern Ireland Open his highlights so far.
The 44-year-old dispatched Graeme Dott 6-2 on Tuesday and was openly critical of the table conditions in his post-match interview, but will now move over to the main table for this crunch clash.
Both of his aforementioned Semi-Final appearances this season ended in defeats to Trump – who went on to lift the respective titles – and Higgins will be determined to take his revenge and become the first man through to the Last Four.
The action gets underway from 1pm GMT, with all matches to be contested over the best of 11 frames.
Players Championship 2020 Match Schedule
Wednesday February 26
Mark Allen v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Shaun Murphy v David Gilbert
Judd Trump v John Higgins