BIG GUNS and joint title favourites Ding Junhui and Judd Trump moved into Friday night’s quarter-finals at the German Masters in Berlin with afternoon victories.
But opportunity also knocks at the Tempodrom for some of those six left in without a ranking title victory on their CV after a tournament littered with shocks.
World No3 Ding, already with a hat-trick of tournament wins this season under his belt, overturned a 3-1 deficit against Dominic Dale, running out a 5-3 winner after claiming four frames on the spin.
He now takes on Joe Perry, in impressive form since the turn of the year, after his 5-1 removal of Mark Selby’s conqueror Kurt Maflin from the competition.
Ahead of the evening matches the bookmakers favour a final between the 26-year-old Ding and world No4 Trump, who accounted for former world champion Shaun Murphy 5-2.
With both desperate to get back in the winner’s enclosure it was a resurgent Trump, 24, who always looked in control, and Murphy was left to rue another disappointment.
The pressure now shifts on to Trump to show his sequence of early exits last year – barring a Crucible semi-final - was a blip rather than any sort of crisis, as he has always maintained.
He will take on Nottingham’s Michael Holt for a place in the semi-finals, who holds a winning record over the left-hander and beat him 5-1 in this season’s Shanghai Masters.
Holt’s run in Shanghai was eventually brought to an end by Xiao Guodong in the semi-finals – and the Chinese player remains a possible final opponent in Berlin.
Guodong, a 35-1 shot even at the last-32 stage, made light of being put in the Buddha Lounge ‘Room Of Doom’ reaching the last eight with a 5-1 win over Scotland’s Jamie Burnett.
He will play Wales’s Ryan Day, who secured a 5-3 win over Anthony Hamilton.
Mark Davis beat Liang Wenbo 5-2, and will face Rod Lawler, winner of an extraordinarily tense encounter with China's Tian Pengfei.
The 42-year-old from Liverpool led 4-0 at the mid-session interval only to be pegged back to 4-4 as Tian started to motor - but in a nail-biting decider only edged through on the final blue.
With so many of the usual suspect on the tipsters’ title shortlists gone before even the last 16 stage, one big win over Trump or Ding could be career-defining for players left in.
Ronnie O’Sullivan lost his qualifier, but Selby, Neil Robertson, John Higgins, Stephen Maguire, Mark Allen, Stuart Bingham, Ali Carter, Mark Williams, Marco Fu and Matt Stevens all fell early.
And with Trump drawn against Murphy in the last 16, that guaranteed another big-name casualty with the draw opening up elsewhere.
Photographs by Monique Limbos