The Fourth Round draws to a close at the 2018 UK Championship on Thursday as two former champions aim to secure Quarter-Final places in York.
The big hitters are beginning to make their move in the season’s first Triple Crown event, with reigning and six-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, 2004 winner Stephen Maguire and Masters Champion Mark Allen notably securing their progression on Wednesday.
A further five top 16 ranked stars will be looking to join them at the business end at The Barbican, while two players ranked outside the world’s top 50 aim to break new ground.
Man of the moment Judd Trump, winner here in 2011, looks to take another step towards back-to-back ranking titles by overcoming Joe Perry.
Trump returned to the winner’s enclosure at the Northern Ireland Open last month and has seemingly sustained that form in York, demonstrating both skill and battling quality to reach the Last 16.
Trump whitewashed David Lilley 6-0 before digging deep to edge out Dominic Dale in a deciding frame and going on to comfortably dispatch Mark King 6-2.
Perry, meanwhile, is out to make it back-to-back UK Championship Quarter-Finals and record only a second win over ‘The Juddernaut’ in eight attempts.
European Masters runner-up this season, Perry has dropped just three frames in seeing off John Astley, Michael Holt and Joe O’Connor en route to the Last 16.
The afternoon’s other fixture sees two-time UK Champion Ding Junhui up against in-form Londoner Martin O’Donnell.
Ding, the 2005 and 2009 champion, has not been beyond the Last 16 of a ranking tournament so far this season but will look to press home his vast experience to avert a potential banana skin.
Ding denied Matthew Selt in a tense decider before overcoming compatriot Xiao Guodong 6-4 and now comes up against O’Donnell for the first time in professional competition.
O’Donnell, the world number 59, is already enjoying the best form of his career and is out to follow up his runs to the Last Eight of the China Championship and International Championship by extending his best ever run here, having previously suffered four consecutive First Round exits.
The evening session sees 2015 World Champion Stuart Bingham bidding to end the run of tricky Thai star Sunny Akani.
Bingham, the world number 14, came through a high quality Last 32 clash with David Gilbert which featured four century breaks and is now out to reach the Quarter-Finals for the fourth time in his last six visits to York.
Akani, the lowest ranked player left standing in the competition (65), finds himself in Round Four for the second successive year, having famously gone down 6-5 to O’Sullivan in an epic 12 months ago.
The methodical cueist has so far not had to face an opponent ranked inside the world’s top 64 and faces a huge test against a multiple ranking event winner.
Elsewhere, a mouth-watering show-down sees Paul Hunter Classic champion Kyren Wilson take on 2013 world finalist Barry Hawkins.
Wilson defeated Hawkins 6-4 en route to the final of this year’s Masters and is already enjoying his best ever run at the UK Championship after failing to surpass the Last 32 in five previous campaigns.
Wilson has dropped just four frames in seeing off Andy Lee, Mike Dunn and Yan Bingtao, while world number six Hawkins recorded back-to-back whitewashes of Jamie Clarke and Ian Burns before beating Gary Wilson 6-4.
Hawkins’ record in this event is also underwhelming for a player of his calibre, with just one Quarter-Final to his name in 13 previous appearances.
The action gets underway from 1pm GMT, with all matches to be contested over the best of 11 frames.
UK Championship 2018 Match Schedule
Thursday December 6
Martin O’Donnell v Ding Junhui
Judd Trump v Joe Perry
Sunny Akani v Stuart Bingham
Kyren Wilson v Barry Hawkins