‘Shouldergate’ may have grabbed the headlines, but the falling of former Crucible winners is the real story of this year’s Betfred World Championship.
At yesterday’s halfway stage in Sheffield only two players – fourtysomethings John Higgins and Mark Williams – remained who have gone all the way to be crowned world champion.
From a starting field of 32, featuring eight former Crucible winners, the likes of Shaun Murphy, Neil Robertson and Stuart Bingham all suffered early exits in this 17-day marathon.
Defending champion Mark Selby did not make it beyond the first round, losing 10-4 to Joe Perry, and five-time winner Ronnie O’Sullivan crashed out 13-9 on Saturday in a feisty encounter with Ali Carter.
That match will be best remembered for a bizarre encounter in the 19th frame, when the pair exchanged words after clashing shoulders mid-frame.
It means, ahead of the quarter-finals, Higgins and Williams are the only men to have gone the distance.
And 42-year-old Higgins – who last won the tournament in 2011 – looks the man to beat after a stunning 13-1 demolition of Jack Lisowski yesterday.
In the quarter-final draw there will be a repeat of the Masters final with Mark Allen facing Kyren Wilson once again.
Wilson secured his third successive Crucible quarter-final after beating Welshman Jamie Jones 13-5.