RONNIE O’Sullivan and John Higgins were in no mood to downplay their BetVictor Welsh Open quarter-final clash after wins on Thursday.
The Rocket brushed past Ricky Walden 4-1 at the Newport Centre, convincing enough if not quite at the unplayable levels reached in the recent 6-0 Masters drubbing.
But Higgins, also 38, had to fight tooth and nail to get past a rejuvenated Judd Trump 4-3 for a morale-boosting victory over months of poor form and disappointing results.
Trump pulled level after Higgins followed the final brown in escaping from a snooker in the sixth frame, to see the scores levelled at 3-3.
But he pulled off a ‘cocked hat’ double on the final red off two cushions in the decider, going on to secure victory in a classic encounter.
The Scot turned professional the same year as O’Sullivan in 1992, and as well as countless ranking titles the pair has won six of the last seven World Championships between them.
And as well as hyping up the clash world No10 Higgins also reckoned he might be partly to blame for O’Sullivan’s inspired form in the past two years.
He said: “I know the likes of Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui are winning titles but I still think this is the biggest game in snooker.
“These occasions are why you are still playing, it will be great and gives you a lift as a player. It’s been a while since he beat me in a ranking event, he will be out to put that right.
“If I am being brutally honest I think I am the reason he is still playing like this. I think when he was behind me in the world title stakes, it didn’t sit right with him.
“He might not say it to people, but he wouldn’t have wanted me to be ahead of him. Maybe it is all my fault he has knuckled down.
“It was a big win for me, similar to Mark Williams beating the world No1 Neil the other day. But I went for that red at the end, that was intended.
“I felt after going in-off on the brown the frame before to go 3-3 ‘here we go again, I am going to lose 4-3’ but I held myself together.”
O’Sullivan said: “These are the kinds of matches people are interested in watching because of the way we play the game.
“Two players, it is like Chelsea playing Manchester City at the moment, it doesn’t get much bigger and it is good for the fans.”