DING Junhui swept past John Higgins in what had looked the tie of the last 16 at the China Open with a comfortable 5-2 victory in Beijing.
The world No3, who turned 27 earlier this week, has not won his home tournament since an incredible breakthrough as a teenager nine years ago, beating Stephen Hendry in the final.
But in a field that does still contain world No1 Neil Robertson and world No2 Mark Selby, Ding remains on course to equal Hendry’s record of five ranking titles in a season.
That comes after lifting the trophy at the Shanghai Masters, the Indian Open, the International Championship and the German Masters. Hendry’s record has stood since 1991.
Ding, who now faces Mark King for a place in the last four, said: It was important to get a two-frame lead at the beginning, which took off some pressure from me.
“John didn't play as well as I expected, he made some mistakes and missed a few relatively easy shots. My concentration was good today.
“I was playing with a better spirit than the previous two matches and the win has brought me more confidence because I played well.
“I'm very pleased to see that I can still play well with such a tight schedule.”
Higgins said: “Ding played very well. I missed three balls that I should have potted. You can't afford to miss easy balls on this level, playing with the best players and I’m really disappointed with so many easy balls I missed.”
Last year’s beaten finalist Selby is still on course for a repeat showpiece against Neil Robertson after ending Jimmy White’s run with a comprehensive 5-1 win.
Selby, 30, admitted before the tournament that he had seriously considered not entering the China Open, concerned about not arriving at the World Championships in tip-top condition.
But with a minimum of fuss the world No2 has sailed through the draw and will now play Mike Dunn for a place in Saturday’s. semi-finals.
Dunn reached his first full ranking quarter-final after 23 years as a professional with a 5-3 win over Craig Steadman.
The 42-year-old Teessider has struggled with form and illness on tour in recent seasons, but his run in Beijing has hugely boosted hopes of retaining his tour card.
Ranked No72 in the world at the start of the week, Dunn is by far the lowest-ranked player left in the event at the last-eight stage.
And the guaranteed £12,500 prize money has moved him provisionally at least into the top 64 on earnings table, and relative safety from the drop and the prospect of Q-School.
King also scored another big win ahead of his final Crucible qualifier in a fortnight, beating Craig Jamie O’Neill 5-3.
Photographs by Monique Limbos