Ronnie O'Sullivan booked his place in the semi-finals of the Coral Players Championship with a hard-fought 6-4 victory over John Higgins in Preston.
Despite being two of the greatest players to ever grace the game of snooker, neither have been at their brilliant best in most recent events with Higgins enduring a poor season almost without exception.
Nevertheless, the pair produced an engrossing quarter-final clash on Friday afternoon which eventually went the way of O'Sullivan after Higgins failed to capitalise when presented with a golden chance to level the scores at 5-5, a missed pink to corner allowing The Rocket to close the door shut on a possible comeback.
That was to be a running theme of the match, O'Sullivan stealing frame one after Higgins had been in control before the Scot won two of the next three to ensure the pair were locked together at 2-2 at the mid-session interval.
Higgins' 96 in frame four signalled the start of some fine break-building from both players, O'Sullivan first slipping into another gear to reel of breaks off 101 and 92 and open up a two-frame advantage at 4-2.
Higgins kept in touch when taking frame seven thanks to breaks of 61 and 65 but he again failed to make the most of a decent opportunity when in first in the following frame, O'Sullivan ruthlessly making him pay with a fabulous run of 116, the 997th century of his career.
Higgins won frame nine to stay alive but when he missed a simple pink in frame ten, O'Sullivan stepped in with a break of 53 and though it wasn't quite enough to seal the deal, the match was over moments later when he potted the final red from distance.
O'Sullivan said afterwards: "It was OK, a bit patchy, John didn't play his best but I'm just pleased to be in the next round.
"John's a great player, I enjoy playing him, we have great fun and some days you win, some days you lose. But today I won and I'm super excited to still be in this tournament."
On facing Northern Ireland's Allen next, O'Sullivan added: "Mark Allen's a great player, great competitor, had a great season, it's a tough match but I've got 24 hours to think about it and get myself in good shape."
O'Sullivan will play Mark Allen in the last four on Saturday evening.
Robertson stuns Trump
In Friday night's semi-final, recent Welsh Open winner Neil Roberston came from behind to beat Judd Trump 6-4.
Trump looked to have matters firmly in control when leading 2-0 and 3-1 thanks to breaks of 62 and 100 but a missed brown with the rest in frame six turned the match on its head, allowing Roberston to draw level when he seemed certain to fall two frames behind once again.
With the momentum having shifted, Robertson produced breaks of 54 and 68 to move in front at 5-3 before Trump kept his hopes alive by winning frame eight.
There would be no comeback, though, Robertson keeping his cool to close out the match with a break of 59 and book his place in Sunday's final.
Friday's Players Championship results
- Ronnie O'Sullivan 6-4 John Higgins
- Neil Robertson 6-4 Judd Trump