Another day of drama at Newport brought deciding frame victories for Matthew Stevens and, in the second round, Ding Junhui.
Stevens’s match against Barry Hawkins was of a superb quality. Indeed, Hawkins did very little wrong but his defeat was illustrative of the standard at the top level.
Ding’s victory over John Higgins was more dramatic. Ding led 2-0 but trailed 3-2 and missed a black off its spot in the next when well poised for 3-3.
Higgins set about completing a trademark clearance but was left with an awkward pink to a blind pocket using the rest.
He missed, left the pink and Ding made a good break to win the decider in a single visit.
It was thrilling stuff and today’s action is sure to provide more, with the opening attraction Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Williams: a clash of two authentic snooker legends.
I thought O’Sullivan looked relaxed – but not too relaxed – against Marco Fu who, one good clearance apart, did not put him under much pressure.
Williams struggled to put away Andy Hicks on Monday and has not beaten O’Sullivan in a ranking event for ten years.
Logic dictates this run has to end at some point but it doesn’t necessarily have to be today.
On the other table, Stephen Hendry will be looking to avoid an exit as disappointing as that of Steve Davis last night, who failed to reproduce the form of his win over Ali Carter in losing 4-0 to Shaun Murphy.
Hendry is up against Mark Allen, whose finger infection did not adversely affect his performance against Ken Doherty.
Allen was once left in tears by a defeat to Hendry at the Crucible but is playing with great confidence at the moment. Hendry will need to play as well as he did against Neil Robertson and, as Hawkins proved, even that might not be enough.
Can Mark Selby turn it on again after a few disappointing months? Selby played well to win three early season titles, including the Shanghai Masters, but has since entered something of a rut.
It’s hardly terminal. Selby is still world no.1 by some distance but it would be nice to see him playing positively against Martin Gould, who himself will surely play his usual attacking game.
Judd Trump is back in action against Stuart Bingham, who he beat in last month’s Masters.
This best of seven format is cut-throat and punishes slow starters but with 13 of the world’s top 16 making the last 16, it is once again proof that the TV environment will favour the game’s best players.
The only problem is that when the field is this good you want the matches to be longer to savour all the quality and drama available.