MARK Selby and Barry Hawkins, the two seeds in their Dafabet World Championship quarter-finals, look poised to move into the semi-finals at the Crucible on Wednesday.
World No3 Selby has not reached the single-table set-up in Sheffield for four years – but his wait looks to be over as he moved 12-4 up on Scotland’s Alan McManus.
And barring an improbable nine-frame comeback from McManus, twice a semi-finalist himself more than 20 years ago, the Leicester Jester looks home and hosed with one more needed for victory.
Selby arrived somewhat under the radar this year in stark contrast to previous renewals, with more fuss being made of Ding Junhui, Neil Robertson and Judd Trump as well as Ronnie O’Sullivan.
And that fact certainly seems to have done him no harm, moving with relative comfort through the draw after surviving a first-round 10-9 scare against Michael White.
World No35 McManus, 43, actually led 3-2 on Tuesday – but he was demolished by two streaks from Selby, the first of six frames and then another of four from 8-4 up.
Selby has lost major finals this year and there would be no better way to make amends for that than to snatch a first world title.
Meanwhile last year’s beaten finalist Hawkins, 35, also move to within touching distance of another Crucible semi-final by moving 11-5 up on Dominic Dale.
World No4 Hawkins found only one better in the shape of Ronnie O’Sullivan 12 months ago – and he could yet face a rematch against the Rocket in the last four this year.
The winner of March’s PTC Grand Finals turned a 6-2 morning lead into a 9-3 advantage before world No28 Dale, 42, ensured a third session by stealing frame 13 on the black.
Dale had vowed that he would sing in the arena if he reached the semi-finals, and Hawkins joked before the match that he would do anything to avoid that “cringeworthy” prospect.
He kicked on again against the Spaceman and a break of 67 in the last frame of the day saw him needing just two more to win on Wednesday afternoon.
Photographs by Monique Limbos