Seven-time winner Ronnie O’Sullivan is leading the charge of the veterans’ brigade into the Masters’ quarter-finals at Alexandra Palace.
Four years after the so-called Class of ’92, snooker’s holy trinity of The Rocket, John Higgins and Mark Williams, last reached the second round of The Masters, the three wise men of the green baize are back there again.
The three superstars of the game, a trio with 11 Masters’ titles between them, rolled back the years in round one to the delight of fans at Ally Pally.
And anyone who has tickets for Thursday night at the Palace has struck snooker gold with two of those three, Williams and Higgins, taking on each other for a place in the last four.
Bingham’s Semis Run Could Give Him an Edge
Before we get to the quarter-finals, there is the small matter of two first-round duels to be completed and there’s no doubt Stuart Bingham is being under-rated against Kyren Wilson.
Bingham has been marked up the 6/4 outsider despite signing off for 2021 with an excellent run to the semis at the Grand Prix in Coventry, beating Ali Carter and Stephen Maguire en route to a last-four loss at the hands of O’Sullivan.
He loves this event – he’s a former winner – and Wilson will walk into the arena acutely aware that he’s staring down the barrel of a trio of first-hurdle flops having lost in the first round of the UK Open and Grand Prix, to Fergal O’Brien and Anthony Hamilton respectively.
The eighth name into the quarters will be either Judd Trump or Mark Allen, who meet in a potentially explosive duel in which the state of the Northern Irishman’s mind as much as the state of the game may determine whether he’s any sort of value at 9/5.
Rocket Headlining On Super Thursday
Snooker fans will be dropping everything on Thursday to savour one of the best double-bills the sport can offer.
It’s quarter-finals time and first up seven-time champ Ronnie O’Sullivan will take on feared Aussie leftie Neil Robertson in a match The Rocket has dubbed The Ashes.
Jack Lisowski couldn’t cope with playing O’Sullivan in front of the Essex showman’s thousands of fans – “it was like playing Roger Federer at Wimbledon,” he declared after his 6-1 battering – and Robertson knows that to beat O’Sullivan he’ll have to snuffle out the crowd first.
At odds of 20/23, with O’Sullivan at 10/11, the odds-setters reckon this is too close to call.
And that match is just the warm-up for the evening showdown between Mark Williams and John Higgins, two men who saw off the Chinese threat in round one, Williams taking care of the defending champion Yan Bingtao 6-1 before Higgins took out UK champ Zhao Xintong 6-2.
Twenty-eight years after they first met in a professional tournament, it’s Higgins who boasts head-to-head bragging rights 36-23.
Incredibly, they’ve not met at The Masters since 2003; less surprisingly, the more consistent Higgins gets the nod at 8/15.
*All odds correct at time of writing.