There Is something about Sheffield that brings out the best in Barry Hawkins.
The 39-year-old has flown under the radar in reaching his Betfred World Championship quarter-final with tournament favourite Ding Junhui.
But the history books show Hawkins is the most consistent performer at the Crucible in the last five years.
Not even world No 1 Mark Selby – who has lifted the trophy three times in that period, but also suffered two early-round exits – can match the Kent cueman’s record of one final, three semi-finals and a quarter-final since 2013.
Of course that first world title still eludes Hawkins, but the world No 6, who he lost 18-12 to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the 2013 final, is closing in on a semi-final against either Mark Williams or Ali Carter.
He returns to the Crucible this morning leading 11-5 and needing just two more frames to beat Sheffield-based Ding.
After a poor season Hawkins has rediscovered his form just in time for Sheffield, having reached the finals of the Welsh Open and China Open in recent weeks.
But he was the underdog heading into his quarter-final with Ding, who had romped into an 8-0 lead after the first session of his second-round win over Scotland’s Anthony McGill before triumphing 13-4
But as impressive as Ding was then yesterday was the total opposite, punished for a string of costly errors to trail 5-3 after their opening session.
Hawkins led 3-1 at the morning’s break with scores of 64, 82 and 50. Ding spent the interval on the practice table and the 31-year-old returned to fire in a 76 break to make it 3-2.
Hawkins won frame six and eight, but missed a red into the centre pocket – after Ding failed to pot the black off its spot – and the Chinese potter cleared up with a well-crafted 67 clearance.
Returning last night at 5-3 up Hawkins took a grip on the match, winning the opening three frames with breaks of 60, 73 and 76. Ding was struggling, but held his nerve with breaks of 102 – the first century of the match – and 52 to make it 8-5.
However, Hawkins took the final three frames of the evening, including a 113 clearance, to move two frames away from his fifth semi-final in six years.
Kyren Wilson is on course to gain revenge for his Masters final defeat to Mark Allen. The Northern Ireland potter beat Wilson 10-7 at Alexandra Palace in January, but trails 11-5 overnight in their contest.
The remaining quarter-finals were tight contests with Judd Trump taking a 5-3 lead over John Higgins and Williams and Carter level at 4-4.
Breaks of 58, 100 and 71 helped Trump move 4-1 ahead of an off-form Higgins, who had thrashed Trump’s good friend Jack Lisowski 13-1 in the previous round.
Higgins finally found some rhythm with a break of 74 to make it 4-2 and won a scrappy seventh frame as well, but 77 from Trump in the final frame of the session gave the left-hander a deserved advantage.
Williams was 1-1 with Carter, who had finally gotten the better of Ronnie O’Sullivan in a tetchy round-two encounter, but Carter moved ahead with a brilliant 126 and led 4-3 after an 82 clearance before Williams took the final frame.