Round One draws to a close at the 2020 World Snooker Championship on Wednesday as the Last 16 commences at The Crucible.
The sport’s show-piece event, held behind closed doors for the first time, has produced drama and quality in abundance, with four seeded stars bowing out so far.
Just two places remain in the Second Round – which gets underway on Wednesday afternoon as the tournament begins to gather pace.
Barry Hawkins seemingly has one foot in the next round and will look to close out the job against Swiss debutant Alexander Ursenbacher.
Hawkins, runner-up here in 2013, coasted into a 7-2 overnight lead and looks on course to continue his superb run of consistency at The Crucible.
The Hawk has reached four Semi-Finals and a final since 2013 – when he was denied glory by Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Ursenbacher, 24, is a former English Open semi-finalist and also reached the Last Eight of this season’s Northern Ireland Open but has a mountain to climb if he is to turn this around.
Stephen Maguire also faces the same predicament going into the closing session of his clash with Martin Gould, trailing 7-2.
The reigning Tour Champion could only sit and admire a break-building masterclass from Gould on Tuesday as ‘The Pinner Potter’ powered in four century breaks.
Maguire is making his 17th consecutive Crucible appearance and is a two-time semi-finalist, most recently back in 2012.
He has little margin for error in the early stages of the second session and knows he must come out firing if he is to have a chance of pulling off the comeback.
A rejuvenated Gould came through the qualifiers last week to reach his tenth World Championship and looks to have a new lease of life on the baize with his adapted snooker glasses.
Gould has lost in the opening round in his last six visits to The Crucible but interestingly has won all five of his previous meetings with Maguire.
The opening match of Round Two sees four-time World Champion John Higgins take on Norway’s number one – Kurt Maflin.
Higgins, a stalwart of this event and the sport in general, is bidding to reach his fourth consecutive Crucible final and claim that elusive fourth world title.
The proud Scot is now the only seed remaining in his quarter of the draw and will feel he has a huge opportunity to stamp his authority and mount another challenge.
Higgins began by defeating two-time world finalist Matthew Stevens 10-5 but will be eyeing an improved performance against the in-form qualifier.
Maflin became the first unseeded player to progress to the Last 16 when he knocked out 2019 semi-finalist David Gilbert 10-8 in a thriller, creating a slice of history for both himself and his country.
A mouth-watering clash of two former World Champions in the evening session begins as three-time winner Mark Williams takes on 2015 king Stuart Bingham.
Williams’ unforgettable triumph here in 2018 saw him become the oldest World Champion (at 43) since Ray Reardon in 1978 and marked the longest time (15 years) between world title wins.
The Welsh legend began his latest campaign with a 10-5 victory over Alan McManus and declared after the match that he intends “never to retire” from professional snooker.
Bingham has long since backed up the dream success he enjoyed here five years ago, going on to win a further three ranking titles, as well as this year’s Masters.
The world number 14, however, has not been beyond the Second Round stage in Sheffield since lifting the trophy and has been otherwise quiet in ranking competition this season, reaching just one Quarter-Final.
He opened up with a 10-7 victory over Doncaster debutant Ashley Carty and now faces Williams at The Crucible for the first time, despite the pair having been on the professional circuit for over 20 years apiece.
The action gets underway from 1pm BST, with First Round matches to be contested over the best of 19 frames and Second Round ties best of 25.
The first session of each match will consist of a maximum of nine frames, before being played to a finish in the second session.
World Snooker Championship 2020 Schedule
*Indicates final session
Wednesday August 5
First Round (Unless stated)
15 Barry Hawkins (7-2) Alexander Ursenbacher*
19 John Higgins v Kurt Maflin (RD2)
3 Stephen Maguire (2-7) Martin Gould*
21 Mark Williams v Stuart Bingham (RD2)